Maryland health officials have published final regulations to prohibit the sale of decorative bumpers that line the inside of baby cribs, making this the first state with such a ban.
The regulations issued by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene go into effect June 21.
The ban comes amid heightened concern about bumpers, which have been found to suffocate and strangle babies. Older babies can use the bumpers to climb out of the crib and fall, studies have also found.
The state's health agency spent the past 18 months studying a need for a ban.
"We decided these products simply should not be in the cribs of young babies," said Health Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein. "We want babies to sleep alone and on their backs in the crib. Crib bumpers are not part of that picture for safe sleep."
Manufacturers have argued that if used correctly crib bumpers are safe. The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association said the bumpers can keep infants from bruising their heads and prevent entrapped limbs.
The group said Friday it was disappointed in the state's decision and thinks a ban is unnecessary.
"At JPMA, child safety is paramount. Our members work every day to provide parents innovation, quality and choices in the products they use to care for their baby," the association said in a statement.
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The health department had considered voluntary standards adopted by the manufacturers of crib bumpers, but said those standards did not "pass the test" of keeping children safe.
Sharfstein said the regulations allow the state to adopt voluntary standards in the future if they are determined credible.
"We took public comment, and every independent and credible scientific source said the [industry standards] were inadequate," Sharfstein said. The American Academy of Pediatrics is among the groups that says crib bumpers are not safe.
Under the state ban, retailers, including Internet sellers, would receive a warning for a first violation of the rule and a $500 fine for each baby bumper sold after that. The ban includes a plan to educate parents on safe sleeping practices, including removing blankets and other objects from the crib.
The ban includes pads made of nonmesh material that rest on the crib mattress and run the circumference of the crib. It does not apply mesh bumpers or those that wrap around crib rails.