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Consumer safety regulators adopt new rules to prevent dresser tip-overs

Former Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Elliot Kaye watches a demonstration of how an Ikea dresser can tip and fall on a child during a news conference at the National Press Club in 2016.
Carolyn Kaster
/
AP
Former Consumer Product Safety Commission chairman Elliot Kaye watches a demonstration of how an Ikea dresser can tip and fall on a child during a news conference at the National Press Club in 2016.

Federal regulators have approved new mandatory safety standards for dressers and other clothing storage units sold in the U.S., after decades of furniture tip-overs that have injured and in some cases killed children.

A rule approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission last week applies to dressers, armoires, wardrobes and more and is intended to protect children up to 72 months old from unstable furniture.

Consumer advocates, furniture industry trade organizations and a group of parents whose children died in furniture tip-overs all praised the new rule as a boon to household safety.

"Today is a victory for tip-over prevention that has been far too long in coming," the group Parents Against Tip-Overs said in a statement after the vote. "Had this stability rule existed twenty years ago, our kids would still be here today."

At least 234 people died as the result of clothing storage unit tip-overs between January 2000 and April 2022, according to the CPSC, 199 of whom were kids. The agency estimates that 5,300 clothing storage tip-over injuries sent people to hospitals each year from 2006 to 2021.

The group Kids in Danger estimates that furniture tip-overs send six children to the emergency room each day and kill one child every two weeks.

The new standard came after President Biden signed the STURDY Act into law in December, requiring the CPSC to adopt a mandatory safety standard for clothing storage units.

The standard had to include certain requirements under the law, such as tests that simulated the weight of children up to 60 pounds and involved other real-world conditions like being on carpet or having multiple drawers open at once.

Earlier last year, the CPSC approved its own mandatory standard for dressers and other similar furniture. The American Home Furnishings Alliance tried to have the rule vacated by a court, arguing that it was too broad.

The new standard approved by the CPSC, which was devised by the standards organization ASTM, will replace the previous standard. It has the backing of both consumer groups and furniture manufacturers.

Richard L. Trumka Jr., the only commissioner of four to vote against the new standard, said the commission was caving "to outside pressure" and adopting weaker rules that he said the agency's technical experts opposed.

"Consumers are now forced to accept that more children will be crushed to death in tip-over accidents," Trumka said, estimating that at least one child will die from a tip-over every year due to the discrepancy between the two standards.

"And I wonder who is going to explain today's decision to their parents. Who will explain that the Commission failed them because it chose the path of least resistance, instead of the path that would have saved their child's life," he added.

The final rule will take effect 120 days after it's published in the Federal Register. The AHFA told its members it expects the rule to be in effect by late August or September.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.