Over the past decade, as televisions have become larger, more unstable, and more affordable, the number of injuries, including fatalities, to children has increased, according to a report by the Journal of Neurosurgery published on September 29. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that furniture and TVs falling on kids result in emergency room visits every 24 minutes in the United States. Anchorit.gov reports that these injuries result in an average of one death every two weeks.
In July, a Milwaukee 4-year-old died after an unsecured television fell on him, as reported by Fox News. The 150-pound TV reportedly toppled on the child after he pulled out the bottom drawer of a dresser, on which the TV was located, to stand on, attempting to reach a DVD player in the top drawer. The result was the dresser falling over and the TV landing on the boy’s head, killing him.
Eighty-four percent of injuries are reported to take place in homes and 70 percent occur when an adult is not directly present, perhaps bathing a sibling or preparing a meal in the next room. Kids between 1 and 3 years of age are the most common victims and 96 percent of deaths are attributable to brain injuries. Forty-two percent of falling TV injuries are reported to occur in bedrooms.
A large part of the problem appears to be the increase in size and unsteadiness of modern televisions and the fact that many are situated on dressers and other furniture not designed for use with TVs.
“A typical 36-inch-wide TV falling just 1 m creates the momentum equivalent to a 1-year-old child weighing 10 kg falling from 10 stories,” states the Journal of Neurosurgery report. This is reported to be 10 times greater than the impact of being tackled by an NFL lineman. Falling TVs are reported as the third most dangerous “home hazard” in the United States.
Unfortunately, kids becoming injured as a result of toppling televisions are not isolated incidents. From 2008 to 2010, 19,200 kids were injured as a result of TVs falling on them, up significantly from 16,500 between the 2006 to 2008 2-year period.
Despite the prevalence of warnings by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, the rate of injuries to kids from toppling TVs remains high, and appears to be on the rise.
There are a number of steps parents and caregivers can take to prevent injuries to children. Anchorit.gov discusses the need to remove items that are appealing to kids, such as toys, food, TV remote controls, and DVD players, from high locations. Also, TVs should only be set on stands specifically designed for the use. It is also important to consider whether a specific TV stand can handle the weight and size of a given TV. Additionally, both stands and other furniture used to hold TVs, and the TVs themselves, should be anchored to the wall with hardware specifically designed for the purpose.
Falling televisions are most dangerous for small children, possibly because they are shorter and their heads are often located directly in the path of one when it falls over. Adults, however, are not immune; 38,000 consumers are reportedly injured by falling televisions every year.
Trying to reason with a young child or simply explaining to the them the danger of a falling television is not enough. Responsible parents need to ensure that all top-heavy furniture, which children may be tempted to climb, and especially TVs, are securely anchored. It also may not be possible to keep even young children in view at all times. A child can easily decide to climb a piece of furniture when a parent or caregiver turns their head for even a brief moment.