Report Finds Soft Bedding a Factor in Playpen Deaths


U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Office of Information and Public Affairs Washington, DC 20207

July 12, 2001 CPSC Contact: Kim Dulic or Ken Giles
Release # 01-196 (301) 504-0580 Ext. 1183 or 1184
Mattel Contact: Lisa Marie Bongiovanni
(310) 252-3524

Report Finds Soft Bedding a Factor in Playpen Deaths

Mattel Launches Campaign to Alert Caregivers

WASHINGTON, D.C - The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
released a report (pdf) today on deaths in playpens. Since 1988, CPSC has
reports of more than 200 babies who died while in playpens. In almost
100 of these deaths, soft bedding or improper or extra mattresses were
present in the playpen and the babies died of suffocation or Sudden
Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). More than 70 percent of these deaths were
to babies less than 12 months old. Twenty-six of the playpen deaths
occurred in a daycare setting.

Over the years, playpens, portable cribs and play yards have evolved
into virtually identical products. Parents use playpens today as places
for babies to both sleep and play. To educate caregivers, CPSC and
Mattel, Inc. are launching a "Sleep Safe, Play Safe " campaign to
address the two greatest hazards revealed by the study: 1) adding soft
bedding and 2) adding extra mattresses or cushions.

For years, CPSC has warned about the dangers of soft bedding such as
quilts, comforters and pillows in cribs. Soft bedding can become molded
around an infant's face and cause suffocation. As many as one-third of
baby deaths attributed to SIDS, in fact, may be suffocation in soft

"Many parents and caregivers know the dangers of soft bedding in
cribs," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "This study shows, for the first
time, that the same dangers exist when using pillows, quilts, and
comforters in playpens."

The findings emphasize the need for caregivers to be aware that
the same safe sleeping guidelines that they follow for their babies'
cribs should be followed in these playpens. That means placing baby on
his back on a firm, flat mattress and not adding extra mattresses or any
soft bedding, such as pillows, quilts, or comforters.

"At Mattel, the well being of children is an inherent part of the reason
for our organization to exist and we reflect this in all that we do,"
said Jim Walter, vice president of corporate product integrity for
Mattel. "We are happy to be working with the CPSC on the 'Sleep Safe,
Play Safe' campaign."

Today, CPSC, in partnership with Mattel, is kicking off a "Sleep
Safe, Play Safe" campaign to educate parents and caregivers about the
dangers associated with soft bedding and extra mattresses or cushions in

The campaign includes a Public Service Announcement (PSA), featuring a
lullaby by singer/songwriter Tom Paxton, that will be distributed to
3,400 radio stations nationwide. CPSC will reach out to practicing
pediatricians and organizations that are influential in educating
parents about ways to keep their infants healthy and safe. Mattel will
send more than a million posters and brochures to practicing
pediatricians across the country and to organizations who work with or
serve parents and childcare providers.

Other hazards identified in the study were playpens that were in poor
condition, had broken or protruding hardware or had side rails that
collapsed creating an entrapment hazard.

To prevent deaths or injuries to children in playpens, parents and
caregivers should take these precautions:

  • Before using a playpen, make sure it has not been recalled. Contact
    CPSC at 1-800-638-2772 or check the recalls section of CPSC's web site.

  • Always put a baby down to sleep on his back in a playpen or crib with
    no soft bedding, such as quilts, comforters and pillows. This can help
    reduce the risk of SIDS and prevent suffocation.

  • Use only the mattress provided by the manufacturer. Do not add
    additional mattresses in playpens. Children can suffocate in the spaces
    formed between mattresses or from ill-fitting mattresses.

  • Check that the playpen is in good shape. Using a modified or
    improperly repaired unit can create hazards.

  • Make sure the top rails of the units lock into place automatically.
    More than 1 million older playpens with top rails that had to be
    manually rotated into a locked position have been recalled.

  • Do not use playpens with catch points, such as protruding hardware.
    More than 9 million older units with protruding hardware have been

  • If using a mesh-sided playpen, make sure the mesh is less than 1/4
    inch in size and that it is attached securely. This will help prevent

For more information on playpen safety, visit the publications

section (Children's Furniture)
of CPSC's web site or call (800) 638-2772. Here are links to PDF versions of the Sleep Safe/Play Safe brochure or poster, or you can get a free copy by writing to CPSC, Washington, DC 20207. PDF versions of both the brochure and the poster are also available in Spanish.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission protects the public from
unreasonable risks of injury or death from 15,000 types of consumer
products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product
or a product-related injury, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or
CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or visit CPSC's web site at For information on CPSC's fax-on-demand
service, call the above numbers or visit the web site at To order a press release through
fax-on-demand, call (301) 504-0051 from the handset of your fax machine
and enter the release number. Consumers can obtain this release and
recall information at CPSC's web site at