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Sydney Adventitious Bowles (left, with mom Keisha Bowles) and Meghan Beck (in frame, with accompanying brother Ryan Beck and mom Kim Amato) were asleep by chiffonier tip-overs.

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“Standing afore all of you is the aftermost abode that I anytime absurd I’d be aback I became a parent,” said Kimberly Amato in February 2020, at the anniversary affair for the International Customer Artefact Health and Assurance Organization. Yet there she stood, assertive and calm with her long, coiled beard pulled back, to allocution about her affliction nightmare—how her 3-year-old babe Meghan was asleep aback the chiffonier in her bedchamber angled over on top of her.

Before that tragedy, Amato had never heard of a chiffonier angled over assimilate a child. As a concrete therapist and accouchement educator, she anticipation she’d done all she could to baby-proof her home—installing chiffonier locks, aperture covers, alike straps on alpine bookcases—before Meghan’s earlier brother, Kyle, was born. But she’d affected that baby dressers like the one she’d bought for Meghan’s bedchamber were safe and ascetic by a authoritative bureau afore they were put on the market.

It is a accepted assumption, according to a July Customer Reports nationally adumbrative analysis of 2,031 U.S. adults. Ninety-six percent of Americans acquire that home appurtenances costing $75 or more, such as dressers, attach to a appropriate assurance standard.

For Amato, that delusion was burst in the aboriginal morning hours of Dec. 18, 2004, aback Meghan suffocated beneath her chiffonier while the blow of the family—including Meghan’s accompanying brother—slept.

Amato couldn’t acquire again how her 28-pound babe could acquire acquired the heavy, 30-inch-tall chiffonier to tip over, but she vowed to acquisition out. “As I captivated my Meggie’s anatomy in my accoutrements for the aftermost time in the emergency room, I promised her that she would be the aftermost adolescent to die from a tip-over,” Amato says.

More On Apparatus Tip-Overs

It has been about 15 years aback Meghan’s death, and admitting Amato’s active efforts, one adolescent still dies about every two weeks afterwards a allotment of furniture, an appliance, or a television tips over, according to the Customer Artefact Assurance Commission, the government bureau tasked with administering bags of customer goods. Aback 2000, at atomic 210 people—mostly accouchement ages 6 and younger—have been asleep aback dressers or added apparatus that abundance clothes acquire angled over. 

Why? Because adverse to what best parents believe, there is no binding federal assurance accepted that requires every chiffonier to canyon able adherence tests. Instead, there is alone a voluntary accepted that abounding assurance advocates say is not accurate abundant to anticipate dressers from angled over in real-world situations. And while anchoring apparatus can be an important allotment of the solution, CR’s advancing analysis into apparatus tip-overs has apparent why it is not an accessible fix for many. 

Amato acknowledges that she couldn’t accumulate her affiance to Meghan. But she has never accustomed up trying—and appropriate now she’s afterpiece to the end ambition than she’s been in added than a decade.

Meghan Agnes Beck, 3 years old, was asleep aback a chiffonier in her bedchamber angled over assimilate her.

Since 2005, Amato has announced at endless conferences, afore ancestor groups, and on civic TV. She’s additionally abutting with added parents who’ve absent accouchement to apparatus tip-overs, and in 2018, they formed the advancement accumulation Parents Adjoin Tip-Overs. Calm they’ve amplified acquaintance about the accent of anchoring apparatus to the wall, alternate in apparatus standard-setting meetings, met with their accompaniment and federal representatives, partnered with and testified afore the CPSC, and helped to body abutment for apparatus assurance legislation.

And admitting they’ve fabricated progress, the accepted autonomous accepted still leaves accouchement at risk. Now Amato and added PAT associates are gearing up for their bigger activity yet: a advance to canyon the Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act through Congress. The legislation would crave the CPSC to assuredly actualize a rigorous, binding federal accepted for dressers. 

The legislation has already anesthetized the House—the extreme any such bill has anytime come—but it needs to canyon the Senate afore the end of the year or ancestor advocates charge alpha over in 2021. And there is no time to waste. Lawmakers will be in Washington, D.C., for an abbreviated abatement affair afore the November elections, again potentially for alone a abbreviate affair afterwards the elections. 

“Had there not been a pandemic, I anticipate we would acquire had a absolutely acceptable chance,” Amato says. “But kids are still actuality afflicted and asleep by apparatus at about the aforementioned amount as they were 20 years ago! It’s time for action,” she says.

Consumer advocates like those at CR agree. “These parents are angry adamantine for able assurance standards, alike in the average of a pandemic, aback abounding of them acquire their kids at home all the time,” says Oriene Shin, activity admonition for CR. “The Senate should annual their adventuresomeness and animation by casual the STURDY Act now.” 

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Amato aboriginal abstruse about the autonomous accepted for dressers in 2005 afterwards autograph to the administrator of the CPSC anon afterwards Meghan’s death. In response, a CPSC staffer told Amato that, for dressers, the bureau relied on a autonomous accepted created by a board composed mainly of apparatus makers and convened by ASTM International, an alignment that sets assurance standards for abounding customer products. 

That standard—established in 2000—states that a chiffonier 27 inches or taller should breach cocked aback a 50-pound weight is afraid on a distinct accessible drawer while the others are closed. This does not annual for what happens aback chiffonier drawers are full, aback assorted drawers are opened at once, aback a 30-pound toddler pulls on two drawers or climbs on one, or aback the chiffonier is placed on carpet, amid added archetypal scenarios.

What’s more, apparatus manufacturers aren’t appropriate by law to ensure that their dressers accommodated the accepted afore they are sold. The accepted is, afterwards all, voluntary.

Members of Parents Adjoin Tip-Overs continuing in advanced of the Customer Artefact Assurance Commission offices in 2018.

Amato initially affected that the CPSC and the ASTM apparatus assurance subcommittee would act bound to strengthen the accepted already she accent the problem. But she anon abstruse otherwise.

Many manufacturers seemed afraid to change their designs, alike if it meant safer articles and beneath injuries and deaths. Conversations about assurance at ASTM affairs were generally bogged bottomward by procedural details, again bootless to move forward. And the CPSC—hamstrung by arduous restrictions placed on the bureau by Congress, bound resources, and industry pressure—appeared to be toothless.

“I actively anticipation this botheration would be apparent as anon as I abreast the CPSC, the manufacturers, and the retailers,” Amato says. “It’s accurate far added difficult, challenging, and arresting than I anytime anticipation it would be to accumulate my affiance to Meghan.”

The STURDY Act is not the aboriginal legislation that Amato helped introduce. In 2005, she formed with addition ancestors who’d suffered a agnate loss, and they accomplished out to associates of Congress, who alien a apparatus assurance bill alleged the Katie Elise and Meghan Agnes Act. The bill proposed that apparatus assuming a tip-over hazard charge be awash with admonishing labels and bank anchors, and charge canyon a able adherence accepted afore actuality put on the market. 

Congress never voted on that bill. But Amato connected to columnist the CPSC to actualize a binding accepted on its own. In a 2006 letter to the CPSC, she wrote: “The CPSC has the ascendancy and the adeptness to authorization apparatus assurance standards and anticipate causeless injuries and deaths … How abounding added accouchement charge die, how abounding added parents charge acquaintance the complete affliction accident any ancestors could endure, how abounding added ancestors will acquire to attempt with the afterlife of their brother or sister, in our case a admired twin, afore our authoritative assembly are accommodating to put abreast backroom and acknowledge to the needs of their capacity and the needs of our nation’s children?”

The CPSC did not booty activity then, and aback Congress associates reintroduced the Katie Elise and Meghan Agnes Act in 2007, it bootless to advance for a additional time.

As amorous as Amato is about the cause, she acknowledges that advancement is emotionally exhausting, and physically draining. It’s expensive, too: She estimates she’s spent abutting to $20,000 on her own dime over the accomplished 15 years on biking to affairs and added advancement work. At assorted credibility she’s had to booty time abroad to focus on her ancestors and her career.

“It’s accessible to get absent in the advancement because it’s a way to alleviate yourself. It’s a way to appropriate the wrong, so my child’s afterlife was not in vain,” Amato says. But she and her adolescent PAT associates acquire apparent that the alone way to sustain their advancement is to basin their resources.

Keisha Bowles of Arkansas, whose 2-year-old babe Sydney Adventitious died in 2012 aback a chiffonier and TV angled over assimilate her, says that PAT has accustomed her much-needed support. “When advancement becomes too abundant and one of us needs to booty a break, others can footfall in for you and accumulate the affection going,” she says.

Parents (at a 2019 ASTM meeting) whose accouchement were asleep by chiffonier tip-overs are angry for legislation acute tougher artefact assurance standards.

For example, Crystal Ellis, of Washington accompaniment (pictured anon aloft in the advanced row, center), whose 2-year-old son Camden died when an Ikea Malm three-drawer dresser fell on him in 2014, generally takes the advance on aldermanic issues and accessible speaking. Janet McGee, of Minnesota (front row, left, in the account above), whose nearly 2-year-old son Ted died in 2016 after a Malm six-drawer dresser angled over assimilate him, tends to handle authoritative responsibilities and speaking. And Brett Horn, of Missouri (standing abaft McGee in the photo above), whose leash son Charlie died in 2007 at age 2 from a chiffonier tip-over, now sits as an administrator on the ASTM board for customer products, confined as a countervailing customer voice. Added associates assignment abaft the scenes and aural their states, too.

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Though the alley has been long, the parents are heartened by the appulse they’ve had so far. They’ve advance the chat by administering their stories, and some acquire partnered with the CPSC on the national Anchor It! campaign. Abounding additionally consistently appear ASTM affairs and acquire helped amend the accepted to awning dressers 27 inches and taller, rather than alone those dressers added than 30 inches tall, because shorter dressers can be aloof as baleful as taller ones, as Horn’s son’s afterlife underscores.

“I never would acquire anticipation that afterwards we all absent our accouchement in such adverse means that we could acquire appear calm to do article good,” Bowles says.

Still, PAT associates acquire begin the authority and abridgement of coercion they’ve faced to be maddening. “Manufacturers apperceive how to break this botheration appropriate now by engineering the tip-overs appropriate out of the design,” said Ellis aback she testified in June 2019 afore the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. But they “have adjourned for years . . . saying, ‘we charge added data.’ Their abstracts is our asleep and afflicted children. We do not charge added data.”

PAT affiliate Meghan DeLong, of Florida (back row, additional from larboard in the aloft photo), credibility to her own acquaintance as evidence. Her 2-year-old son Conner died in 2017 when, according to a lawsuit, an Ikea Hemnes eight-drawer chiffonier fell on him. “At atomic one child, my child, has been asleep by a chiffonier that meets the autonomous standard,” she said at a CPSC audition in May 2019. This aforementioned chiffonier was additionally apparent in a viral nanny-cam video as it angled over assimilate accompanying toddlers in Utah who almost absent injury. Ikea has still not recalled that dresser.

What’s more, Customer Reports’ tests acquire fabricated bright that it’s accessible to body a abiding and affordable chiffonier that passes added accurate tests than those included in the accepted autonomous standard.

But at anniversary ASTM meeting, manufacturers abide to vote adjoin authoritative architecture changes that would accomplish dressers essentially safer.

At a November 2018 ASTM affair captivated in an ascetic appointment allowance at the CPSC’s labs in Rockville, Md., Amato reminded anybody there (including apparatus makers and added assurance advocates) that at that point there had been no cogent assurance improvements fabricated to the chiffonier accepted in years, admitting the actuality that accouchement connected to die from chiffonier tip-overs anniversary year.

“You acquire the adeptness to fix it,” she said, attractive anon at the manufacturers built-in about her. “Twelve years is too long” to take, she continued, apropos to the years she’d spent accommodating in the ASTM meetings.

PAT associates Erica and Aaron Fried of New York (pictured aloft in the aback row, center, and the advanced row, right, respectively) were additionally in appearance that day. Their 3-year-old babe Harper was asleep in 2016 by a chiffonier they said exceeded the autonomous chiffonier standard. Visibly frustrated, Erica batten with accuracy and tears in her eyes aback she said: “Do we acquire that abounding added years or accouchement to spare” afore convalescent the standard? 

That algid November day, board associates voted to table the affair until their abutting semiannual affair in the spring. And as the day-long affair concluded afterwards resolution, DeLong warned them—while sitting beyond from assembly from Ikea, the aggregation that fabricated the chiffonier that concluded her son’s life—“the sad absoluteness is there will be added parents in this allowance abutting time.”

Thinking aback now, Bowles says, “after the ASTM affair I attended, I acquainted like it was about accumulation over lives.”

Even aback there is authoritative abutment for change, the CPSC’s efforts acquire been thwarted. The accepted acting administrator of the agency, Robert Adler, says there are “incredibly bulky rulemaking procedures that the CPSC has to chase in adjustment to address a assurance standard” that is binding and has tougher belief than the industry’s autonomous one.

He explains that the tip-over botheration has “gone on for decades” in ample allotment because laws alien in the Reagan administering meant to absolute authoritative costs on industry acquire hindered the government agency’s adeptness to act.

Adler says that in the agency’s aboriginal years, amid 1973 and 1981, it wrote about three assurance standards a year. But afterwards Congress anesthetized laws complicating the process, the CPSC has averaged alone one new accepted every three and a bisected years. “It’s slowed us bottomward to a crawl,” he says. “I acquire to say that the affection of the standards at that slower clip is no bigger at all than the affection of the standards that we wrote beforehand.”

The band-aid to the stalemate, according to Adler: “I anticipate the STURDY Act is a admirable allotment of legislation, and I anticipate it would badly accelerate assurance for consumers and for children, so I’m a able supporter.”

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In the meantime, the CPSC has fabricated apparatus adherence added of a antecedence in contempo years. In 2019, the bureau activated added than 150 dressers and added accouterment accumulator units to see whether they complied with the industry’s autonomous standard, with the aim of accepting alarming dressers off the market. Aback again the bureau has overseen a access of chiffonier recalls—from 16 altered companies—that either didn’t accommodated the autonomous accepted or were affiliated with tip-over incidents.

The CPSC is additionally assuredly alive on a binding standard, a proposed adaptation of which is due by the end of 2020.

A agent for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, an industry group, told CR that it favors a binding accepted set by the CPSC over the STURDY Act because that “could be expedited by the agency, rather than captivated up indefinitely in the aldermanic process.” The accumulation additionally said it supports the ASTM action and the “essential choir of consumers/parents, including Parents Adjoin Tip-Overs.”

But Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who alien the STURDY Act in the House, argues that her legislation would accommodate aegis added quickly. At a June 2019 audition of the Energy and Commerce Board console she chaired, she acclaimed that “in the aftermost 10 years the CPSC accomplished alone one binding assurance standard,” excluding those completed beneath specific laws anesthetized by Congress. “We absolutely charge to acceleration that up, and in the meantime, we charge to canyon legislation,” Schakowsky added.

Parents and added advocates additionally abutment the STURDY act because they anguish protections included in the new standards proposed by the CPSC ability not be as able or ability booty best to implement. And they anticipate the CPSC accepted ability be added accessible to lawsuits from manufacturers. 

A agent for Ikea, which is not an AHFA affiliate and has produced dressers affiliated to the tip-over deaths of at atomic 10 children, told CR that the aggregation continues to acquire anchoring apparatus can anticipate injuries and deaths. But it additionally believes “there is an burning charge to analyze and strengthen today’s recommended requirements in the U.S.” The agent said the aggregation supports both a binding aphorism on apparatus adherence via the CPSC as able-bodied as the STURDY Act.

Tell your Senator to abutment the STURDY Act.

Advancing for the Worst, Acquisitive for the Best

Ryan (front) and Kyle Beck (back), admission from aerial academy and academy respectively, with Kim Amato and stepdad, Joe Amato, 15 years afterwards Meghan’s death.

As abatement approaches and PAT associates abide alive to accretion abutment for the STURDY Act in the Senate, they achievement the legislation will be voted into law. But, of course, the aftereffect is not guaranteed.

For Amato, this moment is monumental.

If Meghan had lived, she would acquire aloof accelerating from aerial academy forth with her accompanying brother, Ryan, who is now advancing for college. “I see one area two should acquire consistently been,” Amato says.

So instead of sending her babe off to college, Amato is acquisitive for a altered affectionate of anniversary for Meggie this year—and for all children—in the anatomy of a life-saving law.

“You don’t acquire to aloof sit there and accept. If you acquire in article and you action absolutely hard, you aloof ability accomplish some progress, and extenuative a activity is about the best advance you can make,” Amato says.

But she’s quick to add that alike if the bill doesn’t canyon the Senate this session, “we’ll about-face appropriate about and arouse it. We’re not done fighting. Never belittle the adeptness of a few bent parents.”

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