Alarming Furniture and Child Safety Facts Everyone Must Know

On a beautiful spring day you are helping your toddler dress to go to the park.  The telephone rings.  You run to answer it.  You are gone less than a minute.  There is a loud crash in your daughter’s room.  You run back to the room and find her buried under her chest of drawers and she is not breathing.  You are able to revive her using the CPR method that you learned in your parenting class.  When the EMTs arrive, they take your daughter from your arms and put her in the ambulance for a fast ride to the local ER.

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If this furniture and child safety scenario seems shocking or feels like an exaggeration, just know that this scene plays out tens of thousands of times a year in America.  I have worked with severe special needs students, as a teacher.  I know some sweet children that will endure the problems caused by furniture tipping over on them for the rest of their lives.  I know of cases that had happy endings and I know of some occurrences where the child did not survive.

Watch this video from CBS about the hazards of furniture tipping over.  
Read this report from the Consumer Protection Safety Commission.

Read more about furniture and home safety for everyone.

What can parents do to protect our children from these hidden dangers?  Child safety for the home should be the first priority of all new parents and grandparents. Friends, aunts and uncles and day care centers should also be aware of these safety issues. Before bringing our daughter home, my wife and I child proofed our house.  Thirty years ago, that involved getting all dangerous chemicals up and out of reach of our daughter.  I also put plastic spring clips on all the cabinet doors and drawers in our house.  I now understand that what we did was not enough.

Much has changed since my daughter was born.  It is now widely known that plastic child safety latches remain safe for approximately three years.  Plastic contains water and water evaporates, especially in dry climates and during the heating season, leaving the plastic brittle.  Ultra Violet (UV) rays also weaken plastic.  By the time my daughter was ten years old almost half of the plastic door and drawer latches I had installed had failed.  It didn’t matter much because she had figured them out when she was still a toddler.  A Google search will bring up safe and reliable sources for safety latches, hanging and anti-tip devices.

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Parents should look for metal anchors for their furniture and televisions. “What’s that? Did he say televisions?” Yes, I said televisions.  They are the leading cause of injury to children in the United States.  They should also take an inventory of all the items in their home that have the potential to tip or fall. This would include dressers, changing tables, entertainment centers and any other case pieces of furniture.

While we’re at it let’s consider how securely our mirrors, shelves and wall hangings are.  These ubiquitous items are very often overlooked. Do you have a large leaner mirror?  How about framed prints or photos? These could literally be hanging by a thread if they were hung a few years ago using wire.

I think that I can hear a number of you saying, “The dresser? That’s way too heavy for a 45 pound child to tip over.”  Here is an easy test for you to do in your home.  Pull out the bottom drawer to the end of the glide.  Pull the next drawer half way out.  Looks like a stairway, doesn’t it.  Put one foot on the bottom drawer as if you were a child trying to reach something on top of the dresser. While bracing the dresser, start applying pressure with your foot.  You will see that it takes almost no effort to tip the furniture over, so be prepared to stop the tip. I suggest using anti-tip devices made with metal aircraft cable.  These devices should be tested to at least four hundred pounds. In upcoming articles, I will make suggestions about furniture and child safety to keep your kids safe in spite of their best efforts to thwart you.  Now, get to work.  Please.

By the "Furniture Professor"

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