Parents try so hard to keep babies and kids safe, but furniture tip-over accidents continue to injure and kill children with startling frequency, according to Consumer Reports.
Heartbreaking tragedies resulting from furniture tip-overs have continued to make the news over the years, and furniture companies have recalled nearly 1 million dressers for this reason. In early August, nearly 20,000 four-drawer chests sold by Kmart were recalled by manufacturer Transform.
Still, there is no mandatory federal safety standard regulating dresser stability—only a voluntary standard that safety advocates say isn't strict enough to protect children, according to Consumer Reports.
The House of Representatives just passed legislation that would address this deadly problem.
Just because a dresser is expensive doesn’t mean it’s more stable. A $170 dresser passed our rigorous tip-over test… https://t.co/fTffgAv0pt
— Consumer Reports (@ConsumerReports)
The Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to create a mandatory, not voluntary, standard within one year of its passage. It would also strengthen the standard by increasing the testing weight to 60 pounds.
The legislation originally passed in the House of Representatives in September 2019 but did not come to a vote in the Senate before the end of the last session. It has been reintroduced in the House by Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and in the Senate by Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa.
Last week, the House passed the STURDY Act with broad bipartisan support.
"The House [...] approved the STURDY Act with bipartisan support," says Gabe Knight, a policy analyst at Consumer Reports. "Now it's time for the Senate. This lifesaving bill has the support of parents, pediatricians, safety advocates, and even major companies in the furniture industry. Every senator should stand with American families to help them keep their homes safe and their children protected from a furniture tip-over tragedy. There's no time to waste."
Supporters say the legislation just makes sense: it simply makes sure that the furniture that's on the market has been tested to rigorous safety protocols. It makes sure that new furniture is safe for our kids.
Most parents are unaware of the dangers. A July Consumer Reports survey found that 96% of Americans "believe that home goods costing $75 or more, such as dressers, adhere to a required safety standard."
But that's not true, and it's costing children their lives. Parents like Kimberly Amato, whose 3-year-old daughter Meghan was killed in 2004 when a dresser in her bedroom tipped over onto her, have been lobbying for stricter safety regulations for dressers and other furniture for more than a decade.
In 2018, Amato and other parents created the advocacy group Parents Against Tip-Overs, and they've pushed for various legislation and safety improvements over the years. They finally started to have some success when the House passed the STURDY Act in 2019.
"Had there not been a pandemic, I think we would have had a really good chance," Amato told CR. "But kids are still being injured and killed by furniture at nearly the same rate as they were 20 years ago! It's time for action."
Why hasn't anything changed in 20 years? Amato and other parents say the CPSC and Congress are both dragging their feet when it comes to creating better safety regulations, despite the fact that manufacturers know how to make furniture safer. In a recent op-ed for USA Today, Amato wrote "from 2000 to 2018, at least 210 people, mostly children, have died as a result of falling furniture that stores clothing such as dressers and bureaus," and tens of thousands have been injured in recent years.
Still, she says Congress and CPSC have "played politics and fought for their own interests over the lives of our children, waiting for someone else to do the work and create the solution to end tip-overs, always citing the need for more data," she wrote. "If 210 dead people, including children, aren't enough data, I don't know what is."
Robert Adler, chairman of the CPSC, told CR that there are "incredibly cumbersome rulemaking procedures that the CPSC has to follow" in order to write a better mandatory safety standard. CPSC hasn't been able to act, he said, due to Reagan-era laws aimed at limiting regulatory costs on businesses.
He said he supports the STURDY Act, though the agency is currently working on its own proposal for a mandatory safety standard due by the end of 2020.
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What can parents do in the meantime? Many furniture manufacturers urge parents to anchor furniture to the walls, but Amato wrote in her op-ed that anchors are "not foolproof." Like dressers themselves, anchors also aren't held to a mandatory testing standard. "Anchoring is not the answer; an effective mandatory furniture safety standard is the answer," Amato wrote, urging Congress to pass the STURDY Act. "We can't wait any longer. Our children deserve to be protected from tip-overs now."
Consumer Reports has created an action page, which allows you to contact your senators and representative and request their co-sponsorship of the STURDY Act. You can visit this link for more information.
"We don't have any time to waste," says Knight. "This is a serious hidden hazard, it's in people's homes all across the country, and the danger to children is real. It's critical for Congress to pass the STURDY Act now to help prevent future tip-over tragedies."