THE ROBINSON REPORT #3: Not as Protected As We Think We Are

We often make assumptions that products sold in this country are safe because we believe we have agencies that are responsible for making sure that that is true. We are truly shocked when we find that our safety system is not what we think it is.

I am writing today about one of these prevalent and hidden product dangers: many of the clothing storage units, such as chests, door chests and dressers over 30 inches in height that are sold in the U.S., are dangerously unstable. Consider this:

TV and furniture tip overs result in 38,000 emergency room visits and 430 deaths annually. And, as a result of TV and furniture tip overs:

  • Every two weeks a child dies.
  • Every 24 minutes an injured child is taken to an emergency room.
  • Many of those injured or killed are under 3 years of age!

Very importantly, most adults who have young children in their homes do not realize that unstable TVs and furniture pose such a danger to young children.

So, why are furniture manufacturers allowed to make and sell unstable furniture?

Here is the problem:

First, there are currently no mandatory requirements concerning furniture stability.

Second, while the furniture industry has implemented a voluntary standard for dressers and chests that includes a minimum test for inherent stability (ASTM F2057-14), I, along with many knowledgeable people involved in this issue, do not think this standard is good enough. Furniture that only meets this standard is not sufficiently stable to be in a home with children unless anchored to a stud in the wall. The standard requires that furniture be sold with anchoring devices. However, few consumers use these anchoring devices for a number of reasons, including that they do not realize that the furniture may be dangerously unstable unless anchored.

Third, to make matters exponentially worse, as I recently learned, there are manufactures and retailers that knowingly make and sell millions of chests and dressers in the U.S. that do not even pass the voluntary standard’s minimum performance tests for inherent stability. These companies’ refusal to comply with even this minimal voluntary standard is unacceptable. However, the CPSC cannot force compliance since the standard is voluntary at this point.

Millions of Americans, who expect that the products they buy will be safe for the children in their homes, are unknowingly exposed to a serious hidden hazard that continues to seriously injure and kill our children.

I have been and remain committed to working with all of our stakeholders, certainly including the furniture manufacturers, to strengthen the voluntary standard. It is disheartening to say the least that I must also do what I can to pressure or cajole industry members to at least abide by the minimum safety standards that their industry set.

Consumers have a right to know whether the furniture they are buying for their nurseries, children’s rooms, playrooms, and bedrooms has passed the performance test for inherent stability in ASTM F2057-14 standard. ASK!

Whether or not your furniture meets the minimum requirements of the current voluntary standard, if you have young children in your home, it is critical that you anchor it.I promise all consumers that while the CPSC has taken an important first step in raising awareness with our Anchor It! campaign, I will continue to work to ensure that we decrease the unacceptable number of injuries and deaths associated with tip overs in every way that I can.

And while I am doing so, please Anchor It!

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