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These Tip-over Death Statistics Should Get You Started on Babyproofing

Sarah Davis

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IKEA furniture tip-over death statistics and general fatality figures from tip-over accidents are alarming. If you are a parent wondering how common tip-over deaths are, this article will get you up to speed with stats on grim tip-over deaths and I have included some tips to get you started on anchoring your furniture to safety-proof your home.

Furniture anchors are not only affordable(at times free) but their use makes them some of the most valuable babyproofing items we recommend here at Safer For Baby. After watching the 2019 “Deadly Dressers Broken” Documentary on Netflix, I was horrified by the furniture tip-over epidemic claiming the lives of kids throughout the country.

Below is a documentary cover photo;

dresser-stability-test-photo-on-netflix-documentary-about-deadly-furnitures

Among the key reasons identified in different studies point to the furniture industry opting for cheap production methods that result in furniture with bases that are more likely to tip over. IKEA, in particular, was blamed for the en-masse shift to large-scale industrial production of furniture using materials such as MDF, particleboard, and plywood that have a higher center of gravity and are more prone to tipping.

Statistics on Furniture Tip-over Deaths:

Since the year 2000, the Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) reports that there have been a total of 581 recorded tip-over fatalities involving furniture, TVs, or appliances. Of these tragic incidents, a staggering 472 were children, accounting for 81% of the total.

A 2022 CPSC report sheds light on the alarming number of injuries and fatalities caused by furniture, TV, and appliance tip-overs. According to the report’s findings, an average of 22,500 Americans sought emergency treatment for tip-over injuries each year between 2018 and 2020. Shockingly, nearly 44% of these cases involved children under the age of 18.

Below is a breakdown of the deaths with the corresponding type of furniture;

  • Television was involved in 71% of all child fatalities.
  • 55% of fatalities were a result of crushing incidents.
  • Fatalities caused by head injuries accounted for 66% of the total.

I was surprised by the study that found TVs to be the leading cause of child fatalities resulting from tipovers. TV accidents are becoming more pervasive with more American households buying more and bigger TV sets. According to the Consumer Technology Association, 45 million new TV sets were purchased by Americans in 2021 and 4.3 million of those were 70-inch TV screens. This means that more homes are now at increasing risk of tip-over deaths.

The chart below shows the different types of injuries and respective number of fatalities;

Chart Showing child tip over deaths by different tip-over hazard types

As shown in the chart above, tip-over fatalities can be attributed to three primary hazards. The largest proportion, 55%, resulted from crushing incidents, while 22% were caused by positional asphyxia. Additionally, 16% of the fatalities occurred due to being hit or struck with great force.

According to a report by CPCS, a child is rushed to the emergency room every 37 minutes due to incidents involving falling furniture. Shockingly, it is reported that one child loses their life every 11 days. It is concerning to note that the existing standards for furniture are merely voluntary and not mandatory, and they fail to provide adequate protection for children against dangerous tip-overs.

According to the CPSC report, the leading cause of fatalities is children climbing dressers or drawers. Below is a chart illustrating this concerning trend.

Types of injuries caused by furniture tip overs

219 children or 46% of all furniture tip-over deaths were caused by children trying to climb different appliances including TV. Impact force contributed to the death of 122 children, about 26% of all tip-over deaths.

In terms of age, children between 1.5 and 2 years old experienced the highest number of tip-over fatalities as per the CPSC Report. This was followed by children in the 2 to 2.5-year age group and the 3 to 3.5-year age group. The risk of children dying from furniture tip-over incidents sharply increases around the 6th month, but gradually decreases after the 5th year. It is crucial to note that children remain vulnerable to such accidents throughout their entire first 10 years of life.

Unlike other injuries brought about by play items such as trampolines, tip-over injury accidents are not anticipated at all. You can be in your home watching the Superbowl and your kid is in the bedroom trying to reach his toys positioned above the dresser.

IKEA Death Statistics from Tip-overs:

The “Deady Dressers” episode on the Broken exposed IKEA’s deceptive marketing practices and their reluctance to recall the MALM dressers even after they had been informed of how the dresser had caused deaths in multiple lawsuits.

Although it is challenging to identify every furniture manufacturer responsible for the 581 deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2020, a lawsuit filed by Alan Feldman highlighted seven fatalities to have been caused by IKEA. Some of the cases are highlighted on this website.

IKEA ultimately issued a recall of 29 million units of MALM and other chest drawers, reaching a settlement of $46 million with the family of Jozef Dudek. The tragic Dudek incident occurred in May 2017 in Buena Park, Calif., when a three-drawer Ikea Malm dresser, previously recalled, toppled over onto the 2-year-old boy, resulting in his unfortunate demise. Read the story on Consumer Reports here

Below is a snapshot from IKEA showing the recalled MALM drawer dresser(Source: Archived IKEA Page)

Image showing MALM Dressers by IKEA recalled in 2015
Image showing MALM Dressers by IKEA recalled in 2015(Source: IKEA’s archived webpage)

The Deadly Dresser highlights the impact of evolving furniture manufacturing processes on the quality and safety of furniture in recent decades. It is undeniable that furniture used to be crafted to withstand the test of time, often becoming cherished heirlooms passed down through generations. Doug Basset, from the esteemed Vaughan-Basset Furniture Company, eloquently emphasizes how this tradition has been deeply ingrained in American culture.

Mr. Basset highlights their use of solid maple, solid cherry, and solid oak in crafting the drawer top, drawer bottom, drawer front, and sides, ensuring superior stability. This high-quality drawer retails for approximately $599. On the contrary, IKEA offers a similar drawer at a significantly lower price of $199, a $400 difference. However, it’s important to note that the IKEA drawer lacks stability and poses a potential danger, especially to children.

During the period from 1998 to 2003, a significant number of traditional furniture companies in the Appalachian Region ceased operations. These companies had relied on locally sourced hardwood timber. However, they faced tough competition from low-cost imported furniture, particularly from China. As a result, the market share of imported furniture from China in the US skyrocketed to approximately 54% by 2004.

However, the true game-changer in the furniture market was the arrival of IKEA, a Swedish company. IKEA revolutionized the affordability of furniture, not just in the US but worldwide. Founded in 1943, the company entered the US market in 1985 but initially faced significant challenges with low sales. From 1993 to 1999, no new stores were opened. However, at the turn of the millennium, IKEA experienced a remarkable upturn in fortunes and began to soar.

Their remarkable success can be largely attributed to their unwavering commitment to maintaining affordable prices and leveraging economies of scale.

When I checked IKEA’s website in early 2024, it appears that the previously recalled MALM dressers are back in their stores.

The controversial Anchor It! Campaign:

In 2015, the CPSC initiated a campaign called Anchor It!, which suggested that simply anchoring furniture would make it safer. This effectively shifted the responsibility of ensuring furniture safety from organizations like IKEA to consumers. There have been unverified allegations that IKEA managed to persuade the CPSC to launch the program to avoid being held accountable for the instability of their furniture.

Despite the controversy, the campaign garnered support from reputable organizations like Safe Kids Worldwide, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Home Furnishing Alliance (AHFA).

The push for mandatory furniture safety standards:

In 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission initiated the Anchor It! campaign in response to tip-over incidents. This important

In 2018 Parents Against Tip-Over moved to Washington DC to speak directly with CPSC including the CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric. They also sought an audience with Congress to express their frustration with the lack of mandatory stability standards for furniture.

In 2019, Senator Casey proposed the STURDY Act (Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth), a bill that requires the CPSC to establish standards that require furniture to be resistant to tip-overs. The bill also requires the CPSC to issue a consumer product safety rule for clothing storage units. The Act was unanimously passed by Congress and proceeded to the Senate.

Senator Casey was quoted on his blog saying “I passed the STURDY Act because too many families have faced unimaginable tragedy due to inadequate safety standards for furniture at risk of tipping over.” Here is a 1-page summary of the ACT.

It is important to note that CPSC was opposed to some of the requirements that Casey proposed as described in this CPSC blog. Senator Casey’s draft regulations involved adopting ASTM’s voluntary guidelines but CPSC wanted it to go further than that to ensure more safety.

Below is a chart by CPSC staff showing how the STURDY Act was insufficient;

CPSC opposition to casey ASTM draft regulation

The ACT proposed that the testing weight be increased from ASTM’s 50 pounds to 60 pounds. The Senate also unanimously voted for the ACT.

Other home hazards such as drawers and doors also have safety regulations. Baby safety gates also have 10 safety standards.

Furniture Tip-over Regulation:

STURDY ACT:

STURDY which stands for “Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act” was signed into law in December 2022 and went into effect in September 2023.

In response to the growing concern over furniture tip-overs, the STURDY Act was introduced in 2019. This act requires manufacturers to ensure that their furniture is sturdy and tip-resistant, especially for children. It sets a weight limit of 60 pounds that the furniture must be able to withstand without tipping over.

This legislation aims to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by unstable furniture, particularly in households with young children.

Starting from September 1, 2023, when the STURDY ACT came into effect, furniture manufacturers and retailers are required to adhere to updated safety standards for furniture. Specifically, dressers, armoires, and other clothing storage furniture must meet stability regulations to prevent accidents and fatalities caused by furniture tip-overs. It is also mandatory for these furniture pieces to be equipped with anchor kits. These measures aim to enhance overall safety and reduce the risk of injuries associated with unstable furniture.

Before the STURDY ACT was enacted, manufacturers relied on the voluntary standard ASTM F2057-23 without any measures of accountability. However, with the implementation of the STURDY ACT, the CPSC was empowered to adopt and enforce the ASTM F2057-23 as a mandatory safety standard.

CPSC Chart showing effectiveness of ASTM regulations vs CPCS's proposed legislation

To meet the requirements set by STURDY, the ASTM voluntary standard had to satisfy the following performance criteria to become a mandatory standard for ensuring the safety of children up to 72 months old:

  • Conduct stability tests on carpeted surfaces to assess the unit’s stability.
  • Perform stability tests with loaded drawers and multiple drawers open.
  • Conduct tests that simulate the weight of children up to 60 pounds interacting with the unit.

Starting from September 1st, 2023, a new compulsory safety standard will be in effect for dressers and similar clothing storage furniture that have a height of 27 inches or more. See the Tip Note here.

Companies such as IKEA that were not following the voluntary ASTM standard. IKEA had tried convincing CPSC that they’d offer free anchoring kits to consumers but this isn’t an effective way to mitigate the risk. A Study by Consumer Reports which surveyed 1,502 Americans found that only 25% of households anchor furniture in their homes.

IKEA redesigned MALM chest of drawers to make them fully compliant with the voluntary safety standard. According to the standard, dressers or clothing storage units taller than 30 inches must remain stable when subjected to a 50-pound weight hanging from an open drawer, while all other drawers are closed and the dresser is empty.

CR found that 20 out of 42 dressers that were available in the market in 2018 did not meet the voluntary ASTM standard and were unsafe.

The New ASTM Furniture Stability Standard:

The previously existing ASTM F2057-23 furniture stability standard which was last revised in February 2022 before the passage of the STURDY ACT was further revised after the STURDY ACT was passed in December 2022. After ASTM revised its standards, CPSC voted in April 2023 to endorse the new safety standard which took effect upon publication of the ACT in the Federal Registry.

The revised ASTM safety standard for furniture now includes some parts that were found to improve furniture stability. The new ASTM safety standard now;

  • Includes testing that simulates the weight of children up to 60 pounds.
  • Considers the impact on the stability of clothing storage units when multiple drawers are open and when placed on carpeted surfaces.
  • Takes into account the effect on dresser stability caused by drawers containing items.
  • Addresses the impact on the stability of clothing storage units due to dynamic force.
  • Requires testing of all clothing storage units with a height of 27 inches and above.
  • Enforces precise, well-placed, and informative warning and labeling requirements.

What this means to you as a parent:

The enactment of the STURDY Act is a major win for families and children. As furniture tip-overs continue to be a leading cause of injury and death among young children, this legislation will help ensure that furniture in homes across the country is safe.

Here are the things you still need to do;

  • Ensure that you anchor all your furniture including TV, bookcases, and dressers
  • Don’t store toys and other children’s items above the dressers or any furniture as kids will try to climb and may tip over
  • When setting up a TV, it is important to place it on a sturdy and low base. Additionally, try to push the TV back as far as possible. This will help ensure stability and minimize any potential risks.
  • Place heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers for better stability.
  • Supervise your kids even when you’ve anchored all your furniture and TV