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Padded bumpers offered as safety features in baby cribs are to blame for a rising number of infant deaths, according to findings reported Tuesday in the Journal of Pediatrics.

“When a baby’s nose and mouth are covered by a bumper, they can suffocate from their airway being blocked or from breathing oxygen-depleted air,” said the report’s lead author, NJ Scheers. Now retired, Scheers is the former manager of the Infant Suffocation Project at the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC).

Various groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Pediatric Society, and the National Institutes of Health, have recommended against the use of bumpers since a 2007 study highlighted the risks.


But pediatricians’ warnings don’t appear to be diminishing the products’ usage. Scheers and colleagues analyzed bumper-related deaths in CPSC databases and found that from 2006-2012, crib bumpers were responsible for 23 deaths, nearly as many as were seen over the two decades prior to 2006.

Scheers said she hopes the research will lead to a CPSC ban. Currently the action is voluntary: Some Ikea and Target stores have stopped selling the bumpers in recent years. The city of Chicago and the state of Maryland have also banned the sale of crib bumpers. But, said Nancy Cowles, executive director of consumer advocacy group Kids in Danger, “until we get them off of all the store shelves, we’re going to keep seeing these deaths.”