The Checkout

New Data on Children Killed by Unstable Furniture and TVs

Annys Shin

On Wednesday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released new data showing that between 2000 and 2006--the most recent data available--there have been 180 deaths involving heavy furniture such as dressers or armoires, and televisions falling and crushing people. Eighty percent of the deaths involved children younger than 10. And there were 40 reports of tip-over deaths between 2005 and 2006 alone.

And such accidents continue. Last Saturday, a nine-month old in Arizona died after a television fell and crushed her.

There are various theories as to why there was a big increase. Don Mays of Consumers Union thinks it could be that as people trade up to flat screen televisions, they are relegating their front-heavy tube TVs to bedrooms and putting them on furniture not designed to accomodate them. And few consumers bother to install tip-over restraints that are sometimes sold with furniture.

Whatever the cause, the hazard is not new. Three years ago, Consumer Reports tested dressers on the market and showed that the existing voluntary standard to prevent tip overs was inadequate. Rep. Allyson Scwartz (D-Pa.) introduced legislation to get the CPSC to adopt regulations after a fatal tipover accident took the life of a toddler in her district. The CPSC has listed the danger of furniture and TV tipovers among its top five hidden home hazards. The agency also told the ASTM, an independent standard setting organization that the current voluntary standard needs to be strengthened. But no new standard has been put in place because representatives from various furniture companies and consumer groups failed to reach the consensus required.

Earlier this year I talked to several furniture makers who sat on the ASTM committee working on the standard and they told me they preferred federal regulation because it was the only way to get everyone in the industry to comply.

The standard that failed to pass would have required dressers to be inherently stable and not tip over when a five-year old climbed on it with all of its drawers open. It would have required tipover restraints be sold with them and a warning label telling consumers not to put heavy objects such as televisions on top.

Applying a little "wisdom of the crowds" here for a moment, I turn it over to you. Does this sound reasonable to you? And do you think the hazard warrants mandatory regulations?

By Annys Shin |  October 2, 2008; 7:34 AM ET Annys Shin , Consumer News
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Annys: hopefully you read comments to your posts. I pulled a TV down on myself at age four, so couldn't resist commenting on your story.

Here's a piece from Writing Frontier that you might find of interest. Admittedly satirical, but in your world nonetheless.


Posted by: Writing Frontier | October 2, 2008 5:23 PM

Many of the furniture sold in US are imported from oversea for the sake of lower labor cost as in countless other things like toys,food and shoes. Since people here have been using furniture for hundreds of years without much instability problem, it is possible that the new manufacturers abroad may have modified the design resulting in poor stability in order to cut the material cost or speed up the production.

Posted by: austin | October 6, 2008 6:21 PM

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