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Kids' advocates: Deaths and recalls show need to mandate furniture standards

Recalled Ikea dressers still in homes
Recalled Ikea dressers still in homes 02:05

Last year saw an increase in recalls of unstable dressers and other furniture that posed a deadly risk to children, according to new findings that advocates say bolster the case for proposed legislation that would mandate standards, currently voluntary, to prevent tip-overs.

Of 63 children's products recalled in 2020, 11 involved furniture at risk of tipping over, according to an annual analysis of children's products recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC.

Released Wednesday by the Chicago-based group, Kids In Danger, or KID, the findings come on the heels of separate data from CPSC that found between 2000 and 2019, 451 children under 17 were killed by furniture and TVs tipping over and crushing them. 

According to the agency's report, every 43 minutes, on average, a child is treated in an emergency-room visit due to a falling television or furniture tip-over. 

Unstable furniture remained on the market in 2020 and had to be recalled, but "from what we can see of recall effectiveness efforts by CPSC and the recalling companies, most of them are likely still in homes," Nancy Cowles, executive director of KID, stated in a news release. "We need to set stronger mandatory standards to keep dangerous products off the market and strengthen CPSC to get them out of our homes and child care facilities."

The group is calling for passage of the Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth, or STURDY, Act, which would require a mandatory federal rule that would ensure furniture stability. The bill, which passed the U.S. House in 2019 but stalled in the Senate, was reintroduced in the House and Senate earlier this year by Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Senator Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, with cosponsors from both parties.

Ikea pays $46 million to California family 00:30

"Recalls of unstable dressers and other furniture have increased in recent years, and child fatalities involving unstable furniture have continued. Just this month, yet another child was killed by a furniture tip-over," Schakowsky stated. "Clearly, the current voluntary standard is inadequate, leaving children at risk." 

According to a spokesperson for KID, a three-year-old in Maryland died on March 11 when a dresser fell on her. 

Many parents and caregivers do not anchor furniture and TVs to the wall because they view it as unnecessary so long as they keep an eye on their kids, according to a 2020 CPSC survey. That's unfortunately not always the case. 

"These tip-overs happen so fast — it's literally in the blink of an eye, often with a parent close by," Robert Adler, the agency's acting chairman, recently said in a statement. 

In February, a 23-month-old named Kaesyn Williams died in Atlanta after a dresser tipped on him. "Anything can happen under a second, anything can happen," Sa'Mya Williams told a local CBS affiliate. "I loved being his mom," she added.

Recalls related to the hazard also continue in 2021, with the CPSC posting recalls for chests and dressers by CB2 and by Noble House Home Furnishings in January. 

Among the higher-profile recalls was one in March 2020 by Ikea of 820,000 chests sold nationwide two months after the Swedish furniture retailer agreed to pay $46 million to the parents of a California toddler killed by one of its dressers in 2017. More than 17 million Ikea Malm and other Ikea chests and dressers were recalled in 2016 and 2017, according to the company's website

"We will continue to see injuries and deaths until we do something different. This is a call to action for the STURDY Act. This legislation is going to save lives by making the changes necessary to only allow safe dressers in the marketplace," Crystal Ellis, founding member of Parents Against Tip-overs, or PAT, stated on Wednesday.

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