Falling TV sets have killed more than 200 children since 2000, but parents remain largely unaware of the danger, say reports out today.
An update from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows 29 people, mostly children, were killed by falling TVs in the USA in 2011 alone, making it one of the worst years on record for such tragedies. And 18,000 people a year, mostly children, are treated for injuries from falling TVs, the commission says.
It's happening despite the widespread switch to lighter flat-screen TVs. In fact, safety experts say the switch may be making the problem worse as consumers take old, heavy sets out of their family rooms and put them atop unstable bedroom dressers and playroom shelves.
"Children will climb up on furniture to try to turn the TV on and there goes the heavy television as well as the piece of furniture," says Inez Tenenbaum, chairman of the commission. The TVs alone, weighing 50 to 100 pounds, can crush a child, she says.
"These TVs are on shelves never designed to hold them," says John Drengenberg, director of consumer affairs at Underwriters Laboratories, which sets safety standards for TVs and other products.
But flat screen TVs are falling on kids, too, and a new survey shows few parents are installing those in the safest way.
"Every three weeks a child dies" from a tipped-over TV, says Kate Carr, president of Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit advocacy group that surveyed 1,000 parents in September with funding from a company that makes TV mounts. "But this is entirely preventable."
The group found just 27% of parents had seen media reports about the danger. That's despite the fact that a cluster of TV tip-over deaths among children in the Chicago area made national news earlier this year.
Few parents said they had taken steps to prevent the injuries: Just 3% had secured traditional cathode ray tube TVs to walls or furniture; just 5% had secured flat-screen sets to furniture and just 28% had attached them to walls, which Carr says is the safest choice.
One telling finding: 43% of cathode-ray tube TVs were on top of dressers.
That's where Heather Poole, 26, of Surprise, Ariz., had a bedroom TV for her son, Brayden Lee Rodgers. Brayden, age 3, died last Dec. 31 after the TV and dresser fell on him, Poole says. He had been watching a movie before bed. "The only thing we can think is that he climbed up on the dresser to restart the movie," she says.
Poole has started a non-profit to warn other parents and help them safely install and secure their TVs. She says she and Brayden's father did not know that was necessary: "We had the plugs on the electrical outlets, we had the cabinet locks," she says, but had never heard of a TV killing a child.
"A lot of people are purchasing TVs in December or January for the holidays or for the Super Bowl," Carr says, so she hopes more will hear the facts now.
Tenenbaum says TVs should be secured but "if anchoring is not an option, place the TV on a low, sturdy base and remove any items from the top of the TV," such as remotes and toys, that might attract children.
The commission report says an additional 12 people, mostly children, were killed by falling furniture and appliances other than TVs in 2011 and that a total of 349 deaths from TVs, furniture and appliances have been reported since 2000. Falling TVs, furniture and appliances injure more than 43,000 people a year, the report says.