After she lost her toddler son, Janet McGee thought her family was alone.
Her 22-month-old, Ted, died in 2016 after an Ikea dresser tipped over on him. McGee soon learned that hundreds of children have been killed in similar incidents, and thousands more are injured every year. What’s more, the safety standards for dressers like the one that fell on her son weren’t mandatory.
“As parents, we worry about many things,” said McGee, an Eagan resident who founded the national coalition Parents Against Tip-Overs, during a news conference at Children’s Minnesota on Monday. “But furniture falling on our children shouldn’t be one of them.”
McGee and other parents who’ve lost children to tip-overs may soon see widespread change. Nearly six years after it was first introduced, the federal STURDY Act — which stands for Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth — is expected to move forward this year.
“One of the ways that we make sure that we never forget Teddy is by making sure that the same thing doesn’t happen to other kids,” said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who co-sponsored the bipartisan measure.
The Minnesota Democrat, who serves 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 resulted in multiple child deaths. The U.S. House passed the measure last year.
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 clothing storage units for safety and stability before selling them. Tests would simulate real scenarios, including placement on carpeted surfaces, multiple drawers being open at once, drawers having items in them and dynamic force by a child weighing up to 60 pounds.
“The STURDY Act is a piece of legislation that would require these gaps between real-world use and current testing to be accounted for and would 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 news release.
Though there are precautions that families can take at home — including steps that McGee has worked with Children’s to promote — the proposed legislation takes the burden off families, said Dr. Andrew Kiragu, a critical care physician at Children’s Minnesota. Over the past decade, he said, 100 children have ended up at the Children’s trauma center because of a furniture tip-over.
“In order for kids to grow, they have to explore their environment. Kids are meant to jump, climb, play,” Kiragu said. “We should not stand by and allow potentially dangerous products to be available for sale.”