Measure Would Protect Babies At Risk of Suffocating in Cribs, Playpens

Legislation Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Angela McKnight and Jim Kennedy sponsored to protect infants from safety hazards posed by supplemental mattresses was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The sponsors noted that discussions with Warren resident Joyce Davis, whose four-month-old son Garret died while sleeping on a supplemental mattress, helped shape the legislation.

L to R: Rich and Joyce Davis and Asm. Jamel Holley
L to R: Rich and Joyce Davis and Asm. Jamel Holley

“There is this perception that if a product is sold by a major retailer, it must unequivocally be safe,” said Holley (D-Union). “But we continually hear stories of babies being injured or killed when a supplemental mattress is used in a soft-sided play yard. Manufacturers of this product are quick to deny the obvious harm, while retailers are focused on selling product.”

The bill (A-1139) would prohibit the sale of unsafe supplemental mattresses designed for children’s products, such as cribs, playpens and play yards.

Current New Jersey law prohibits the sale of certain children’s products that have been deemed unsafe by a federal agency or recalled. A violation of the law carries a penalty of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for any subsequent offense. This bill amends the law to include supplemental mattresses in the definition of “children’s product.”

“It’s simply irresponsible for retailers and manufacturers to continue selling a product known to put babies in grave danger,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “New Jersey’s parents can’t just hope that the industry or the federal government will take action on their behalf when their babies’ lives are at stake. Our state has to step in to protect children.”

“Parents believe that a supplemental mattress will make an infant more comfortable, but the sad, little-known reality is that these products present a serious risk,” said Kennedy (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “Getting supplemental mattresses off the market is part of fulfilling our obligation to keep New Jersey’s children safe.”

Consumers of play yards are advised not to use supplemental mattresses, because a baby can easily fall through the gap between the supplemental mattress and the mesh of the play yard and suffocate, according to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission. Neither state nor federal law prohibits sale of the product, however.

The legislation is consistent with a petition now before the CPSC that calls for a ban on the sale of supplemental baby mattresses nationally.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.