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Kids killed every year by tip-over TVs that can be fixed with a $20 anchor

Sunday's Super Bowl LVI may be just the excuse some people need to splurge on a new television. But parents looking for a bigger screen or better picture quality may not recognize the tip-over risk for TVs, a hazard that can be dangerous — and sometimes deadly — for children. The good news? There's a relatively simple and inexpensive fix.

Every year, hospital emergency rooms treat an estimated 22,500 people injured by televisions, furniture and appliances tipping over, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Between 2000 and 2020, there were 581 tip-over deaths, most of them kids. Of the 472 child fatalities, 71% involved a television, the CPSC said in a report last week. 

The peril is greatest when a  TV is sitting on furniture that can also fall over. Children have been known to pull out a dresser's drawers to use as steps to climb, which can cause a dresser and TV to topple over. 

"Kids climb everything, even when you're in the room — it can happen in an instant," CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric told CBS MoneyWatch in a recent interview. "We have had too many furniture units and other products tipping over and killing and injuring children." 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission launched the Anchor It! Campaign in 2015 to educate parents and caregivers about the dangers of falling TVs and furniture. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Many parents and caregivers do not anchor furniture and TVs to the wall because they view it as unnecessary so long as they keep watch over their kids, according to a 2020 CPSC survey

"People either don't know about the risks, or they think it can't happen when an adult is nearby," Hoehn-Saric said last week in a statement.

That's not always the case, with potentially tragic consequences. A year ago, 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 the local CBS affiliate. "I loved being his mom," she added.

The CPSC's report and the NFL's biggest game coincide with steep retailer sales this time of year, with current models typically discounted ahead of new sets hitting the market in March or April. 

Americans bought nearly 45 million TVs last year. Kits to prevent tip-overs cost less than $20 and can be installed in 20 minutes or less, according to the CPSC. For instance, BestBuy offers an anti-tip kit for furniture for $9.99.  

Anchor It! | Even When You're Watching - Public Service Announcement by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on YouTube

Child safety groups say anchoring a TV is advised, but not enough of a solution, arguing that many renters can't anchor furniture because their leases won't allow them, or they don't understand the risk. 

As things stand, there are voluntary standards for furniture, but legislation passed the U.S. House in June and has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would require mandatory rules for furniture stability. 

Meantime, the CPSC has posted a slew of recalls related to the hazard, the most recent last week. One high-profile recall came in March 2020 by Ikea for 820,000 chests sold nationwide. That recall came 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.

The CPSC outlines a number of steps for reducing tip-over risks, including how to anchor furniture:

  • Anchor TVs and furniture, such as bookcases and dressers, securely to the wall. 
  • Always place TVs on a sturdy, low base, and push the TV back as far as possible, particularly if anchoring is not possible.
  • Avoid displaying or storing items, such as toys and remotes, where kids may be tempted to climb to reach for them.
  • Store heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers.
  • If buying a new TV, consider recycling older ones not currently in use. If moving the older TV to another room, be sure it is anchored to the wall properly.
  • Keep TV and cable cords out of reach of children.
  • Even when TVs and furniture are anchored, adult supervision is still recommended.
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