Furniture and TV Set Tip Overs

The statistics are compelling. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, a child dies every two weeks in this country from a tip over incident involving a TV, a piece of furniture, or a combination of the two. Every 24 minutes a child is admitted to the emergency room because of a TV or a furniture tip over.

There have been 3 deaths of young children over the past two years due to IKEA dressers falling over. Most recently, a 22 month old boy, named Ted McGee died when he tipped one of these dressers on top of him during naptime. His parents did not hear the furniture fall or his crying, which could have happened to any of us. Seven months ago, IKEA made recommendations to anchor dressers they designed to the wall in order to prevent injury to children.

A new study suggests more children are being injured by toppling TV sets and most of those accidents could have been prevented if the TV sets had been anchored to the wall. Dr. Michael Cusimano, the lead author and a professor of neurology, education and public health at the University of Toronto found that toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 years often suffered head and neck injuries, according to the report published in the Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics. "People have done the physics," Cusimano says. "The heaviest TVs falling a meter onto a small kid’s head are equivalent to a child falling 10 stories. These can potentially be fatal injuries."

Young children are often unattended while watching TV. “It's not unusual for a curious child to climb up onto a piece of furniture that holds a TV,” Dr. Cusimano says. The child can knock the TV off balance and it can crash down on a child’s head. Between 2006 and 2008 there were 16,500 injuries and between 2008 and 2010 there were 19,200. To get a better sense of the cause of the accidents and how they might be prevented, the lead author and his coauthor combed through the medical literature for studies that examined injuries caused by TVs. One of the most telling statistics found 84 percent of the injuries occurred at home and three-fourths of them were not witnessed by adult caregivers.

Unfortunately, I have personal and professional experience caring for a young child severely injured by a furniture tip over. This type of injury had one of the most tragic outcomes as there is no way to repair the damage done. Just a toddler at the time, my patient climbed up on an entertainment center and pulled it over. The large TV set permanently damaged this beautiful child, who never recovered even the most basic life functions.

Many years later when I became a new parent, I immediately ran out to buy every strap and L-bracket the hardware store had available to bolt every piece of furniture to the wall, large or small. I could not sleep until the television had been securely anchored as well. Many thanks to my husband for putting up with my neurotic approach to injury prevention.

Interestingly enough, one additional dresser purchased a few years ago escaped my L-bracket obsession and has tipped over on one of them when all the drawers were open. My child was able to yell for help but was helpless while pinned underneath. It is a reminder; this type of household injury could happen to each and every parent.

The take home message is to be safe, mount your TV securely and anchor all heavy pieces of furniture to the walls. If something heavy must be placed on a stand, then at a minimum, it should be fastened also. There are straps that can be purchased at your local hardware store and many assorted sizes of L-brackets available that are both effective and economical.

It takes about five minutes to stabilize furniture adequately. The consequences of a small child playing or climbing on unstable, unanchored furniture could be tragic. We cannot protect children from every possible injury mechanism in their lifetime, but this is one we can take into our own hands. If we know better, we can do better.

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