I was SO wrong. I quickly learned she was not the first, or the only, and sadly she was not the last child to be killed by a falling dresser. I was sure that if retailers knew of the dangers, they'd surely want to sell furniture anchors right next to the other childproofing supplies. Turns out, most didn't. And still don't. Even today. Even though they are sold online on their websites, they are not consistently found in the big box stores where most parents shop for childproofing supplies.
I thought that anything sold and marketed for kids' use, including furniture, and especially juvenile furniture, like Meghan's was, was held to a safety standard of some kind. We live in the United States. Someone must be making sure things sold in the U.S. are safe for consumers, right? Isn't that why we have a Consumer Product Safety Commission? Aren't there rules about safety with regard to manufacturing so kids don't choke, get lacerations, or killed by things like a dresser falling on them?
It turns out that's just not the case. It wasn't then, and it really isn't now, either. At least with regard to furniture tip-over.
It also turns out there WAS a voluntary furniture safety standard in place in 2004 when Meggie died, but it didn't protect her. There is one in place today that is better than it was then, but still voluntary, and still not strong enough to prevent injuries and deaths to children (or adults for that matter) Every 17 minutes someone is injured in a tip-over. About every 10 days a child dies. There have been 542 reported deaths due to tip-overs from 2000-2017, and yet there is still only a weak voluntary standard, meaning manufacturers don't have to comply, and many don't. It's clearly not strong enough, because children are still dying and being injured. You can read the entire report from the CPSC here.
I've come to learn that the CPSC is underfunded, bows to industry when it's mandate is to protect consumers, and seems to vote along party lines when consumers at risk come from all racial, ethnic, age, and political backgrounds. I can assure you, furniture falls because it's unstable when a child is interacting with it. It's not the child's fault, nor the parent's if a piece of furniture falls and injures or kills the child. The child is doing what they developmentally are supposed to do. The parent's, unless they throw the furniture onto their child deliberately, are either unaware of the danger, or are aware and falll prey to the "it can't happen to me because..." syndrome, which is all too common and potentially a deadly decision for their child.
The CPSC is also under a "gag" order with regards to their ability to recall unsafe products, because it section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act. This can also result in deadly consequences. The two most recent recalls this rule delayed recalls in and resulted in additional injuries and deaths that might have otherwise been prevented included the IKEA MALM dresser recall and the Fischer Price Rock n Play recall.
The ASTM furniture safety sub-committee has had 19 years to make a strong and adequate furniture safety standard and to make it mandatory. Yet they have not. The standard has changed very little in that time, because the industry stonewalls and drags their feet, always asking for more "data", all the while tens of thousands of children are injured, some catastrophically, every year, and over 542 children have died. That is their data, but it's apparently not enough. To be fair, some manufacturers do comply with the voluntary standard, and they go above and beyond with their testing, but they are but a few of the hundreds if not thousands of manufacturers out there.
We also know that the data reported to the CPSC is only estimated, because the vast majority of doctors and parents don't know how to or why they should report injuries from tip-overs to the CPSC, and the reports they do get are generally only from the 100 NEISS hospitals, medical examiners who know to put tip-over as related to cause of death on a death certificate, or savvy parents who do the research and find out how to report a tip-over to the CPSC or through saferproducts.gov. I can tell you just from the interactions I have through social media and conversations about tip-overs with everyday people, near-misses and minor injuries happen way more often than what is reported in the official data, and even more severe injuries and some deaths have gone unreported. I'm sure there are more deaths that are also not captured for that reason.
To attempt to circumvent the voluntary standards process, which is clearly too slow to make meaningful change that would save lives, advocates like myself have turned to our lawmakers for help. We've had bills related to tip-over in Congress 3 times so far. The Katie Elise and Meghan Agnes Act in 2005 and 2008 and the STURDY Act in 2016 and again introduced in April of 2019. It is time to force a mandatory standard that will actually dictate how to manufacture more stable furniture (Clothing storage units) that is inherently more stable and by virtue of that, much less likely to tip when a child interacts with it.
Stay tuned for more on the STURDY Act and how you can help!