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Think You Don't Need to Anchor That Dresser? Think Again.

Photograph by Twenty20

Last year, Ikea re-announced their recall on several dressers after 2-year-old Jozef Dudek was crushed to death by an unanchored chest that tipped over. It was the eighth accidental death involving a child the company had seen since 1989.

Though most of Ikea’s chests and dressers now come with an extra bag of wall anchors and instructions for securing units to the wall, a recent investigation by Consumer Reports (CR) states that dressers 30 inches tall and under are still not governed by a mandatory stability standard, nor are they required to pass any premarket tests—despite the deadly risk to small children.

In a series of intricate tests with all of the drawers empty, CR analysts evaluated 17 dressers marketed as measuring 30 inches tall and under.

During the first test, the drawers were left open. In the second test, the top drawer was open, extending to its final stop, and a 50-pound weight was hung from the drawer front. The top drawer was also left open during the third test—only this time, researchers increased the 50-pound weight in 1-pound increments to a maximum of 60 pounds to represent the upper weight range for children affected by tip-overs.

The result: Only five of the dressers inspected passed all three tests. Even worse, more than half (nine) of the dressers failed all but one of the tests—a problem that CR’s chief scientific officer, James Dickerson, blames on balance.

When someone pulls a dresser drawer open, he said, the furniture's center of gravity shifts. If a young child were to pull on the drawer handle or hang on the drawer front, the additional weight could cause the dresser to topple forward “with surprising speed and force.” But, he adds, because safety standards are entirely voluntary, not all dressers are designed to withstand the added weight.

“As it stands now, a manufacturer following the industry standard can legitimately say that its lineup of dressers is compliant with the industry’s standard, even if it manufactures one of these low dressers that has been shown to pose risk of injury or death to children,” Dickerson said. “Our results show why a standard that includes dressers 30 inches and shorter is both feasible and necessary.”

Investigators at CR also noted that four of the dressers that failed their 50-pound test—one from Pottery Barn Kids, one from Nexera and two from South Shore—did not come with the required furniture straps (aka anti-tip restraints) for dressers taller than 30 inches. Therefore, parents buying these items would have to purchase aftermarket furniture anchors to protect their little ones from what the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) calls an “easily preventable” tip-over incident that can injure or kill.

So, why isn’t the CPSC “requiring” these companies to meet safety guidelines for dressers that are 30 inches tall or shorter? According to the CPSC, they are "actively working with the voluntary standards setting groups to address the issue of furniture tip-overs and prevent injuries and deaths. CPSC also has open rule-making on furniture tip-overs. CPSC’s Anchor It! campaign [an informational outreach program] urges consumers to anchor furniture to the wall."

“We must take action now,” said CPSC Commissioners Marietta Robinson and Joseph Mohorovic in June 2015. “If we can prevent one more death, it will be worth it.”

Meanwhile, CR said the agency dropped its initial plan to issue a proposed or final rule in 2019 in lieu of “collecting more data” through testing. CPSC tells Mom.me, however, that the organization "has open rule-making on furniture tip-overs."

In other words, it's up to parents to make sure dressers, cabinets, flat-screen TVs and other home furnishings—no matter how big or small—are securely anchored to the wall before leaving kids unattended, especially those 10 and under.

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