LAKELAND, Fla. — A Tampa Bay mother says the death of her child is bringing about change.
Meghan DeLong’s son Conner was killed after his bedroom dresser tipped over and crushed him. It was Mother’s Day 2017.
DeLong co-founded Parents Against Tip-Overs, or PAT, after finding out she was not alone in losing a child to furniture falling.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, every two weeks a child is killed by a piece of furniture, a television or an appliance falling on them.
“This should not be his fate. He should be here,” DeLong said.
DeLong and other parents are lobbying lawmakers to change how furniture is tested. Now, they are close to seeing change.
U.S. House lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday afternoon that would mandate certain testing on dressers. The Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act of 2019 has been before lawmakers before and failed.
With bipartisan support this time around, the bill passed unopposed by a voice vote.
Florida Rep. Darren Soto co-sponsored the bill after meeting with DeLong and other parents who have lost children to tip-overs.
DeLong says she didn’t even know how dangerous his bedroom dresser was until it was too late.
“His life was stolen from us. Oh, there’s definitely anger. There’s anger that this is even a thing in our country, in a country that can do so much better, we are failing our children,” DeLong said.
Right now, furniture makers use voluntary standards to test dressers.
The voluntary standard set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) covers clothing storage units or dressers taller than 27 inches. The dresser must not be able to tip with all empty drawers opened. It also requires that it not tip when one fully open drawer is loaded with 50 pounds of weight.
Conner’s dresser met those standards, but DeLong says it still killed him. She and other parents wanted the STURDY Act because it mandates required standards and more dynamic testing.
The STURDY Act calls for “tests or testing that more closely simulate real world use.” That includes increasing the weight to 60 pounds, testing while multiple drawers are open loaded with weight and testing on carpet.
DeLong says the STURDY Act would have saved her son’s life.
“The STURDY Act would have helped to save Conner’s life. Yes, because for one major reason it will force dynamic testing,” she said.
10Investigates tested a new dresser made for a child’s bedroom. It passed with the current voluntary standards. When 10Investigates applied some of the testing called for in the STURDY Act, the dresser immediately fell.
“There are enough deaths that we know something is wrong and it needs to be fixed,” Soto said.
He says the STURDY Act will not cost furniture manufacturers, and says they need to do better to be accountable.
“We shouldn’t have a decision between whether a child dies because of a faulty dresser (or) on the fact that you need a more expensive dresser to keep your kids safe. That doesn’t make sense here in the United States of America,” Soto said.
The head of the CPSC says right now some furniture manufacturers refuse to even meet the minimal voluntary standard.
The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) supports a mandatory stability standard, but says the STURDY Act is unnecessary because the CPSC has already started to work on this.
“None of these proposed new tests have been defined yet nor determined to be feasible,” said AHFA CEO Andy Counts. AHFA argues it would be difficult to agree on what would be a “standard” for carpet padding and other tests.
DeLong says the fact is furniture is killing American children.
“I feel like were screaming at the top of our lungs this is a crisis!” she said. “The STURDY Act is appropriate. We want sturdier dressers. We want something that isn’t going to kill our children. We want to be able to close our eyes at night and know that when we wake up our children will still be alive that’s what we want.”
Even if the STURDY Act becomes law, there will still be millions of dressers in homes of children that were made prior to the STURDY Act.
That’s why DeLong also started Conner’s Legacy Foundation. She says it is critical that parents understand the dangers in their home and that they anchor their furniture. Upon request, at no charge to parents, she sends free kits to anchor furniture and televisions to walls.
A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate but has yet to be heard.
10Investigates reached out to both Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio after the STURDY Act passed in the House.
Scott’s office responded: “The safety of Florida’s children and families is always Senator Scott’s top priority, and he will review any legislation to make sure they are protected that comes before the Senate.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a sponsor of the bill, sent this statement to 10News:
“No family should live in fear that their child could be severely injured or even killed by a preventable tip-over of household furniture. After a 22-month old from Apple Valley, Minnesota, was killed by a falling Malm dresser, I called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to take action to prevent further injuries and deaths and on IKEA to act to safeguard its customers. Our bill expands this call to action by ensuring stronger standards across the board that will help protect more children from the risks of furniture tip-overs.”
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