Fellow 21st century parents, we can count ourselves extremely lucky that our kids are growing up in a far safer world than we did. For example, if your childhood was anything like mine, you took summer road trips, barreling down the interstate, rolling around in the “wayback” of your parents’ station wagon with zero mention of a seatbelt. You’d ride your bike all over town without a helmet. Also, your parents probably took you to a “chickenpox party” when some kid in your neighborhood tested positive so you could hurry up, get exposed, get sick, and get over it, never mind the extreme fever and potential permanent scarring chicken pox can leave on your body. And they let you play with the sick kid—encouraged it even—letting you share dress up clothes and sippy cups—while they puffed away on their Virginia Slims and filled every possible inch of air space around your little lungs with secondhand smoke.
And, I’ll venture to say that few, if any, of our parents ever thought to anchor heavy furniture to the wall. But today, all of that has changed, and our kids are safer as a result. They’re in car seats, and boosters, and wear seatbelts. They wear helmets. They get vaccinated. And for the love, I sure hope no one pollutes your kids’ airspace with the toxins of cigarette smoke.
But also, we know now how dangerous dressers and other heavy furniture can be. We know how quickly young kids can climb on things—even if we are out of the room for a minute or two. And we know the damage that can be done when one topples over, because we’ve heard the horror stories and we’ve learned from other parents’ mistakes. Parents like those of a group called PAT, an acronym for “Parents Against Tip-Overs”—which is comprised of parents who have been forced to endure every parent’s worst nightmare—losing a child.
Because the sad truth is, kids all over America are still at risk, living in homes with unanchored furniture. Already in 2021, tragically, “at least four children—a 23-month-old in Georgia, a three-year-old in Maryland, a two-year old in Florida, and a seven year-old in New York—have died” as a result of this safety hazard, says Gabe Knight from Consumer Reports.
In addition, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that “between 2000 and 2010, CPSC staff received reports of 245 tip-over-related deaths involving children 8 years old and younger. More than 90 percent of the incidents involved children 5 years old and younger. In more than half of the 245 fatalities (56%), the child was crushed by the weight of the television, furniture, or appliance. The majority of these children suffered fatal injuries to the head (67%).”
That’s why Parents Against Tip-Overs (PAT) have joined together to introduce and support the STURDY Act (Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers On Youth Act), which would “create and finalize a mandatory standard to help prevent tip-over incidents involving dressers and other clothing storage furniture,” says a joint letter to the Senate signed by dozens of local, state, and national organizations.
Parents Against Tip-Overs is a group none of us want to be a part of, as PAT is a “nationwide network founded by parents who have lost their children to furniture tip-overs and want to see an end to these preventable tragedies.” They are living through unimaginable pain, and will have to live with the void of their lost child for the rest of their lives, but they are begging us to learn from their error. They are begging us to do what they neglected to do, and ensure our furniture and heavy appliances are anchored and secure.
And, they’re asking for our help in getting The STURDY Act passed through the American legislature.
According to their website stoptipovers.org, the STURDY Act (a.k.a. bill H.R.1314/S.441) “would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to create a mandatory safety standard for all dressers and clothing storage units manufactured or sold in the U.S.” This is important, PAT explains, as “currently, there is no mandatory standard, and the existing voluntary standard is insufficient.”
Because kids are getting hurt and some are dying, even today, well into the 21st century.
Meghan Agnes Beck, a 3-year-old, who died right before Christmas when her dresser fell on her during the night. Sydney “Chance” Bowles, who at 2 1/2, lost her life after a TV/furniture tip-over accident. Ted McGee, a 22-month-old, who was crushed under his dresser while his mother thought he was taking a nap. Conner DeLong was found on Mother’s Day, trapped under a dresser that followed the industry’s “voluntary safety standards” and is still sold in stores today. He was two years old.
These stories and more can be found on stoptipovers.org, as they are the children of PAT parents. And truthfully, they could be my child, or yours. This isn’t about parents watching their children more closely, as we all put our kids down for a nap and leave the room. We all let our three and four-year-olds play independently (as they should) from time to time. But we have to know that the furniture in the room is safe and secure when we do.
The STURDY Act, much like legislation surrounding car seats and other safety measures for children, will help us do just that. But Parents Against Tip-Overs (PAT) needs our help, and is encouraging us to call or write our legislators, asking them to support this bill.
The bill already has the support of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), but that’s obviously not enough.
“Every forty-six minutes, a child is injured in a tip-over incident. Between 2000 and 2019, tip-over incidents have been linked to more than 460 child fatalities,” says Congresswoman Schakowsky. “Today, I’m reintroducing the STURDY Act to protect children from these preventable dangers and spare families from these painful situations resulting simply from a piece of furniture.”
And Senator Casey, who introduced the bill in the Senate, adds, “Congress must quickly pass this legislation to stop the hundreds of preventable injuries, and even deaths, that impact children and families across the country each year.”
The problem is that safety measures are voluntary and there is no strict, across-the-board protocol. Some parents are informed, their pediatricians discuss the importance of anchoring furniture, and the child dressers and TVs they purchase even come with anchoring kits and instructions. Then, there are the households where parents have never even thought about this safety hazard at all. That’s why the STURDY Act matters.
Here’s what it will address. First of all, the only safety standard in place right now is voluntary and it’s limited. As PAT’s website explains, “The voluntary standard for dressers tests whether a dresser or drawer will tip with 50 lbs. hanging from an open drawer. This has not proven stringent enough to reduce tip-overs. It also only applies to dressers over 27 inches.”
And, again, this weak standard is voluntary, so furniture makers don’t even have to meet it at all.
The STURDY Act, however, will:
Mandate that all clothing units be tested
Require that tests simulate the weights of children through 72 months
Mandate testing to “account for scenarios involving carpeting, loaded drawers, and the dynamic force of a climbing child”
Require warnings on products
Require CPSC to “issue the mandatory standard within 1 year of the STURDY Act’s enactment”
Thankfully, support for the STURDY Act is already there, from many influential people and organizations. “The bill has been endorsed by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, as well as dozens of consumer protection, health, and safety organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Gabe Knight tells Scary Mommy. “The STURDY Act has also been endorsed by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) and its members, as well as additional manufacturers.”
It’s hard to imagine anything or anyone halting this bill, because who wouldn’t want this to pass? But we know how American politics work, and that opposition is always possible. That’s why Parents Against Tip-Overs—parents who have literally been forced to endure the worst moments and greatest heartbreak imaginable—are asking for our support to contact senators, representatives, legislators, and really anyone with influence to get the STURDY Act passed into law.
Do it for your kids, your grandkids, your friend’s kids, your nieces, and your nephews.
And do it for Meghan, Charlie, and Sydney. And for Harper, Madison, Curren, and Ted. And for Camden, Conner, and Shane. All beautiful, innocent children taken far too soon from this world because of a freak accident that their parents are begging us to prevent.
For more information on furniture tip-over hazards and how to keep your family safe, visit Consumer Reports.