Portable bed rails aren't safe: Groups ask FTC to ban false advertising

November 19, 2012

Portable bed rails marketed to "make any bed safer" actually increase the risk of injury and death, according to an article in the November 15 issue of Biomedical Safety & Standards (BS&S).

Two consumer watchdog groups have requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to order one manufacturer to stop making false advertising claims regarding the safety of its portable rail. A front-page feature in BS&S reports on the request and provides background on the safety concerns related to the use of such products.

Bed Rails Linked to Deaths—Request to Stop False Advertising

In September, two groups sent a formal letter to the FTC requesting that one manufacturer be stopped from making false safety claims for its portable bedrails. Last year, one of the groups petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban marketing and order a recall of specific bed rail models; to assess the design and use of similar bed handle or bed rail devices; and to investigate the risk of life-threatening injury or death from entrapment, strangulation, or positional asphyxia and ban other devices as appropriate.

The request cites more than 525 deaths associated with bed rail use that have been filed with the FDA, along with more than 155 deaths reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). There are multiple "entrapment zones" with the use of a bed rail, each with a risk of causing death by asphyxiation. This entrapment risk can be a fundamental feature of the design of the rail openings or may arise from how the bed rail attaches to the bed.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer continues to make safety clams, such as that its product "makes any bed a safer bed." In the petitions, the FTC is asked to order the manufacturer to stop making these unproved safety claims. Other portable bed rails on the market present similar issues.

Previous CPSC standards addressing bed rails for children and toddlers have led to sharp reductions in injuries and deaths in young children. However, the standards don't apply to products intended for adults—especially older adults, for whom falls are a common and potentially catastrophic event.

There's no evidence that side rails safely prevent falls, whereas other measures—such as lowering the bed and using anti-slip matting—are effective. "A fall with a bed rail in place is more dangerous than a fall without a rail, because of the change in trajectory of the fall," according to the article in BS&S.

Although hundreds of deaths have been reported, it is likely that the true number of incidents is substantially higher. Home users and even some health care professionals may be unaware that such events should be reported to the FDA or CPSC. (Or if they are aware, they may not be motivated to report.) The BS&S feature article concludes, "Given portable bed rails are often sold directly to consumers and through medical supply stores, consumer groups think the CPSC and the FDA, both of which have been petitioned for rulemaking repeatedly in these matters, should be taking action to regulate, force recalls, and effectively ban marketing and sales of the dangerous devices.

Explore further: New research leads to improved bunk bed safety standards

Related Stories

New research leads to improved bunk bed safety standards

April 14, 2011
Ryan was just four years old when he went to sleep on his bunk bed one night and never woke up. His mother found him strangled to death the next morning with his neck caught between the vertical post of his side ladder and ...

Study: kids who sleep in parents' bed less likely to be overweight

May 9, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Children who wake up at night and are allowed to fall back asleep in their parents' bed are less likely to be overweight than kids put back into their own bed, a new study says.

Incomplete recovery of lumbar discs two years after bed rest

June 22, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Recovery of the lumbar intervertebral discs following a 60-day period of bed rest is a lengthy process, with recovery incomplete at two years, according to a study published in the June 15 issue of Spine.

Recommended for you

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.