It's been nearly 20 years since the ASTM furniture safety subcommittee was founded, and over 14 years since Meghan died, and yet the statistics on the numbers of children injured and killed from tip-overs has changed very little. This is despite there being a voluntary furniture safety standard in place, and one, that while it is stronger than it was when Meghan died (largely because of my and the advocacy of other parents), it is not yet strong enough to prevent tens of thousands of children from being injured every year and approximately 28 children being killed each year. The system for making meaningful changes to the standard drags on for years because of the industry's resistance. It's resulting in needless injuries and deaths. It needs to change and it needs to change now.
Every 17 minutes someone in the U.S. is injured in a tip-over. About every 10 days a child dies from those injuries. From 2000-2017, 542 children lost their lives because of a tip-over, including my daughter, and hundreds of thousands have been injured, and those are only estimates based on what's actually reported to the CPSC.
On April 10, 2019, the STURDY Act (Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky, Dressers on Youth Act, HR 2211, was introduced into the US House of Representatives by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of IL. You can read her press release here. It currently has 6 co-sponsors. I met last week with my Congressman James McGovern of MA, and he agreed to co-sponsor as well.
What will the STURDY Act do?
- It will require the CPSC to create a mandatory rule for free-standing clothing storage units to protect children from tip-overs
- It will cover all clothing storage units, even those under 30 inches (the current voluntary standard only covers units above 30 inches and children have died in tip-overs from shorter dressers)
- Require testing to simulate the weights of children up to 72 months of age
- Require testing measures to account for scenarios involving "real world" ways children interact with dressers including carpeting, loaded (not empty) drawers, and the dynamic force of a climbing child
- Mandate strong warning requirements
- Require the CPSC to issue the mandatory standard within one year of enactment
Why do we need it?
Because after nearly 20 years, the ASTM furniture safety sub-committee, on which I sit, has been unable to make meaningful and timely progress on a voluntary standard that is adequate to protect children from tip-overs. It's also only a voluntary standard, which means manufacturers choose whether or not they comply, and many do not. This has resulted tens of thousands of preventable deaths and injuries every year. We cannot rely on this process to protect our children. It did not protect my Meggie nor the hundred thousand + injuries and/or deaths that have happened since she died. We need a better and faster way to force compliance with a standard that will protect children adequately.
Who supports this bill and how can you help?
On May 6, 2019, a letter about the tip-over epidemic and the STURDY Act, was sent to every member of Congress, and a press release entitled "Consumer and Medical Groups Applaud New Legislation to Prevent Furniture Tip-Overs" was also released to the media. The consumer groups who are lending their full support to this legislation include the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kids In Danger, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Public Citizen, and Parents Against Tip-Overs (PAT), of which I am a founding member.
PAT is a group of parents who all lost their children to a tip-over incident. Each of us has our own organization, like Meghan's Hope, but we felt that as a nationwide coalition, we'd have a louder voice, and indeed, that is what has happened. Together with our partners in advocacy, we will manifest the changes we have been fighting for individually. We are in our infancy, but our advocacy has been loud, powerful, and effective. We are fighting this fight so no other families ever know the pain we do.
But we need your help. You can join the chorus and advocate for safer and mandatory furniture safety standards, and now is the time. The most effective way you can help us make furniture safer and protect kids (beyond sharing the message of Meghan's Hope) is to contact your rep in Congress and tell them you'd like them to support the STURDY Act and why. It's quick and it's easy! Here's how:
How to contact your Congressional Representative (it's quick and easy!)
You can help by contacting your Representative in Congress and asking them to support the STURDY Act, HR 2211. Share Meghan's story, your own tip-over story, or just that you want Congress to take action to protect children from tip-over injuries and deaths.
It's easy to do if you've never done it before. Phone calls and in person meeting requests work best. You can find your representative and how to contact them here.
When you call:
- Ask the aide that answers the phone that you want your rep to co-sponsor the STURDY ACT, HR 2211 and tell them why it's important to you (share a story of a friend, relative, or Meghan's story if you don't have a personal connection to a tip-over (read the info on the STURDY Act fact sheet). Provide your contact information in case they want to talk to you more about it!
- Refer to the Press release of 5/6/19 (above) that they received the same day.
- Refer them to the STURDY Act fact sheet (link is also in the letter they received) for more information. You can use it as a guide for your call if you have a copy in front of you, but they will also have the same info if they click the link via their press release.
- If you feel comfortable/strongly about the issue, request an in-person meeting with them as well when they are in your home state. It's great to have a personal connection and to be able to hand them a copy of these documents as well (print out the text of the bill, the fact sheet, and the press release to bring with you).
Lastly, I would love if you would share this information/blog post with friends, family, and social media contacts. Consumer demand drives change and we need your help to save lives and put an end to the tip-over epidemic.