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Are infant suffocation deaths increasing? A 2009 report from the US Centers for Disease Control describes a troubling rise in infant mortalities due to accidental strangulation and suffocation in bed. Since 1984, the rates have quadrupled, with the “most dramatic” increase since 1996, the same period during which deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) sharply declined. The “Back to sleep” campaign, which urges parents, care givers and pediatricians to lay babies on their backs for sleeping, has been widely credited for the SIDS decline. This new rise may reflect a subsequent trend among certifiers not to use SIDS as a diagnosis and rather to report suffocation as the cause of death. It also could be that scene examinations have improved to more reliably document the presence of inappropriate bedding and sleep situations which would lead to such attributions (see the 2006 updated CDC Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Investigation guidelines for more information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US infant mortality trends attributable to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed from 1984 through 2004: are rates increasing? Atlanta: CDC, 2009.

The US has seen a well-publicized campaign among some university and college leaders in the past year to decrease the legal drinking age to 18, reversing the 21+ laws that have been in effect since 1988. A handful of states have also unsuccessfully attempted to pass laws to lower the …

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