After losing her baby boy, Janet McGee thought her family was alone.
Her 22-month-old son, Ted, died in 2016 after an Ikea chest of drawers toppled over him. McGee soon learned that hundreds of children had been killed in similar incidents and thousands more were injured each year. Also, safety standards for chests of drawers like the one that fell on her son weren’t mandatory.
“As parents, we worry about a lot of things,” McGee, an Eagan resident who founded the national Parents Against Tip-Overs coalition, said at a press conference at Children’s Minnesota on Monday. “But furniture falling on our children shouldn’t be one of them.”
McGee and other parents who have lost children to rollovers may soon see widespread change. Nearly six years after its introduction, the federal STURDY Act — which stands for Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth — is set to move forward this year.
“One of the ways we make sure we never forget Teddy is to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to other kids,” said U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who co-sponsored the bipartisan measure.
The Minnesota Democrat, who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee that will hear the STURDY Act, was among members of Congress who pushed for a sales ban and product recall after the Ikea Malm dresser led to the deaths of several children.
The recall of 29 million dressers was the largest in U.S. history, and the McGees and two other families reached a $50 million settlement with Ikea in late 2016. But “there continue to be problems across the country,” Klobuchar said.
The STURDY Act would require companies to test the safety and stability of clothing storage units before selling them. The tests would simulate real-life scenarios, including placement on carpeted surfaces, multiple drawers open at once, drawers containing objects, and dynamic force exerted by a child weighing up to 60 pounds.
“The STURDY Act is a law that would require these discrepancies between real-world use and current testing to be considered and finally make the safety standard mandatory,” McGee said.
The legislation has garnered support from manufacturers and retailers including Ikea, Room & Board, Crate & Barrel and Williams-Sonoma, according to a press release.
While there are precautions families can take at home — including steps McGee has worked with Children’s to promote — the proposed legislation eases the burden on families, said critical care physician Dr Andrew Kiragu at Children’s Minnesota. Over the past decade, he said, 100 children have ended up in the children’s trauma center because of furniture toppling.
“For children to grow, they need to explore their surroundings. Children are meant to jump, climb, play,” Kiragu said. “We must not sit idly by and allow potentially dangerous products to become available for sale.”