Two members of Congress are calling on the federal government to take action on pillow-like infant loungers after an NBC News investigation revealed there have been significantly more deaths linked to the products than officials previously announced.
In a letter sent to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on Friday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., described the loungers as “unnecessary products” that endangered infants’ lives.
“A strong rule that eliminates pillow-like loungers, and other similar products that invite parents to use them believing these products are safe for infant sleep, is essential,” Blumenthal and Schakowsky said in the letter.
At least 25 deaths have been linked to baby loungers since 2015, NBC News reported this year. In September 2021, the federal government recalled more than 3 million infant loungers manufactured by The Boppy Company, citing eight deaths of infants who had reportedly suffocated after being placed on the product.
But deaths have continued to occur both in the Boppy Newborn Lounger and those sold by other manufacturers, NBC News found. Newborns can suffocate on the pillowy surface of loungers, or asphyxiate when their bodies get stuck in a position that restricts breathing.
Boppy and other manufacturers have said their loungers were never intended for sleep and warned consumers against leaving babies unattended. But newborns can quickly fall asleep on cushioned surfaces like loungers, placing them at heightened risk of suffocation and asphyxiation, medical experts said, and images of babies snoozing away in them continue to proliferate on social media.
The CPSC is expected to move forward with new safety regulations for infant loungers in the coming weeks. These regulations could potentially range from mandatory warning labels to design standards that could effectively ban certain types of loungers, depending on what the commission requires. But any new rules would go through a lengthy, yearslong process that includes public review and feedback.
“I have been encouraged by the steadfast commitment Sen. Blumenthal and Rep. Schakowsky have demonstrated for our work to keep babies safe from hazardous products,” CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said in a statement. “We look forward to their continued support as we work to develop performance standards to make these products safer.”
Blumenthal and Schakowsky also praised the agency for suing Leachco after the manufacturer refused to cooperate with a recall of its infant lounger. The CPSC previously reported two deaths linked to Leachco’s product. A hearing for the safety commission's administrative lawsuit against the company is scheduled for Aug. 7.
Leachco has defended the safety of its lounger when used as intended and countered with a suit against the agency in federal court. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last month, the CPSC warned the public against using another lounger that was sold exclusively on Amazon after the company, Gorsetle US, refused to cooperate with a recall. The product no longer appears to be sold on the online retailer’s website. Amazon declined to comment, and Gorsetle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Boppy declined to comment on the lawmakers’ letter to the CPSC but referred NBC News to its previous criticism of Meta for failing to do enough to stop its recalled loungers from being sold secondhand on Facebook Marketplace.
In June, the CPSC and Boppy reannounced their recall of the company's loungers, citing the widespread availability of the product on platforms like Facebook. The federal agency said two additional deaths linked to the product had occurred after the initial recall was announced in 2021.
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has previously said Facebook Marketplace’s policies prohibit the sale of recalled items, and that it removes listings that violate those policies.
CLARIFICATION (July 19, 2023, 6:20 p.m. ET): This article has been updated to clarify that the CPSC’s action against Leachco was an administrative proceeding and that Leachco’s litigation was filed separately in federal court.