From 2011 to 2013, an average of 11,000 children under age 18 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries involving TVs or injuries involving both televisions and furniture, according to a new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. From 2000 to 2013, 279 people were actually killed by falling TVs and furniture.
"This is just one of those things that we need to educate people about, because it's so preventable," Marietta S. Robinson, commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety agency, said in an interview.
In tests conducted by the consumer agency, a 32-inch CRT (old style) television dropped from a height of 36 inches hit with an average force of 12,703 pounds. Flat screens hit with 2,100 pounds or less, still a sizable impact on a small child's body. Forty-one percent of U.S. households still have at least one CRT set, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
Nor is there always a loud crash to alert parents. Brett Horn of Kansas City, Mo., lost his 2 ½-year-old son, Charlie, in 2007 when a 30-inch-high dresser tipped over on the child who was supposed to be napping. Despite having an audio monitor on, Charlie's nanny heard nothing. When she went to check on Charlie and his two brothers, she found the child, who was later declared dead of asphyxiation.
"When that [dresser] tipped over and fell on him, it didn't make a sound or much of a sound, because obviously there was something there to break his fall," Horn said. He and his wife later founded Charlie's House to help spread the word about accidents to children in homes.
Lisa Siefert of Barrington, Ill. found her son, 2-year-old Shane, under his dresser after his nap. There was no television, no toys on top, but presumably he had pulled out the drawers and tried to climb to the top when the furniture tipped over on him. She also has started a child safety organization, Shane's Foundation, to reduce future deaths and injuries.
Siefert and her husband had child-proofed the house for an older sibling of Shane's. "We had outlet covers, drawer latches, netting for the balcony, play gates, door-knob covers," she said. "This is not something that we were aware of."
Robinson said the government works with furniture manufacturers to improve furniture stability, and the Consumer Electronics Association is part of a group that promotes National TV Safety Day on Saturday. The solutions are pretty simple: anchoring TVs and furniture to walls as part of childproofing a home, and recycling old, heavy CRT televisions that are rarely used.
When parents put knives out of reach and childproof cabinet doors, "they should also think about anchoring their furniture to the wall," Robinson said. "This is a danger that people just don't think of."
"We’re asking families to add one important, and perhaps overlooked, task to their pregame prep,” Kate Carr, president and chief executive of Safe Kids Worldwide, said in a news release. “Take a look around your home. Can the flat-panel TV tip over? Have you moved the old CRT to a bedroom dresser where it rarely gets watched? On National TV Safety Day, recycle that old TV. Your home will be safer for it.”
TVs and furniture can be mounted on walls or anchored with straps and brackets, all of which can be purchased at low cost wherever the sets themselves are bought, officials said. If that's impossible, TVs should be placed on low, stable piece of furniture, with the television pushed back as far as possible to the wall.