March 1, 2012

Children's Hospital asks parents to help prevent television and furniture tip-over injuries

Every year more children are suffering life-threatening injuries caused by furniture and television tip-overs. The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is asking parents to implement a few extra safety measures to keep their children safe around the house.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 20,000 children across the nation are treated each year in emergency rooms for injuries related to instability of televisions, furniture and appliances.

Overwhelmingly, toddlers and children age 5 and younger account for most of the tip-over injuries. Although, between the years 2000 and 2010, the CPSC found more than 245 fatalities were in children under 8. The CPSC says that every two weeks a child dies when a TV or piece of furniture falls on them.

"Dressers, book shelves, entertainment units and TVs are most typically involved in furniture tip-overs onto young children," said Sarah Haverstick, Safe Children Program manager. "These injuries are often devastating or life-ending — often the child is crushed by the weight of the item or they suffer serious brain injuries."

Most of the fatalities that occur involve TVs that fall onto children. Each year, the injury numbers continue to increase.

Haverstick said the reasons for the increase are unclear.

"My assumption would be that flat-screen TVs have become more affordable and accessible to consumers," she said. "TVs also continue to get larger, and while the flat screen TVs may seem lighter-weight than the old tube TVs, they are still incredibly dangerous to a small child and can easily be pulled over."

Haverstick offered the following tips to keep children safe:

• Do not place toys, stuffed animals or other items that are attractive to children on top of furniture. Keep toys at the child’s level to prevent them from attempting to climb atop furniture to reach something.

• Bookshelves and dressers in your child's room should be securely attached to the wall, even if the dresser seems too big/heavy for the child to move. Once drawers are open, even large dressers become very front-heavy. Open drawers make for an inviting staircase for young children.

• Always strap or mount TVs to the wall, and strap the entertainment unit to the wall as well. Large TVs are one of the biggest risks for falling onto children.

• If you do not mount TVs directly to the wall, consider placing them on a lower stand, still strapping the stand to the wall and pushing the TV as far back on the stand as possible and securely attaching the TV to the stand.

• Always supervise children around furniture or TVs that have the potential to tip over.

Straps that are used to attach furniture to walls are available for purchase for $2.85 per pack (two in a pack) at the Safety Store on the second floor of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

More information is also available on the CPSC website.