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Babies, children, and TV tip-over accidents
How to keep little ones out of harm's way

That big new television you've just purchased could pose a real danger to your child. In the first seven months of 2006 alone, 10 children died after a TV fell on them, twice the typical yearly average, prompting the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a warning to parents.

A TV tip-over typically occurs when a child attempts to climb onto furniture (or into a drawer of a dresser on which a TV sits), causing the furniture and/or the TV to fall onto the child. (See the video found in this report on furniture tip-over dangers.) A child may also attempt to grab a toy on top of a TV, or to change a video or DVD in a player atop the TV, causing those items to fall.

Injuries and deaths due to falling TVs and TV furniture are generally more common among kids 5 and younger. Fatalities are highest among 5-year-olds, and more than twice as many boys than girls are killed.

Skull fracture is a common type of injury from a falling TV, which can lead to a range of short-term, long-term, or lifelong disabilities, some of which require rehabilitation. They can include problems with bladder or bowel control, lessened cognitive ability, and lessened ability to bathe, dress, walk, eat independently, hear, see, speak, or feel (due to nerve damage).

How TVs vary

Different TV types can present particular hazards, but any TV is a danger to a curious child, and parents should take steps to eliminate the risk of injury.

Because of their weight, typical picture-tube (cathode-ray tube or CRT) TVs can produce a forceful impact when they fall. And since the center of gravity is so far forward, if a CRTV is tilted even slightly, the risk of it falling is even greater than with other TV types. While other, somewhat more stable, TV types have become popular, these models still exist in homes and are available in stores, in ever-larger sizes.

Flat-panel TVs, such as plasmas or LCDs, are not as front-heavy as CRTVs, and rear projectors are also more stable than CRTVs because their weight is at the bottom. But any TV type can weigh more than 100 pounds and be a risk to babies and children.

Safety measures parents can take

Any TV can be a crushing hazard for children. To keep children safe, parents should follow these steps:
  • If available, buy the stand specifically designed for your TV by the manufacturer, as well as any hardware to secure the TV to the stand or wall. Used together with the TV, they can reduce the likelihood of TV tip-over. If the TV comes with a base, have it attached professionally at the store. Consult the TV manufacturer's instruction manual for tips or warnings regarding placement of your television.

  • If you put your TV on other furniture, make sure it's sturdy before you put the TV on it, and that it can handle the TV's weight. (See our free report on furniture tip-overs for more information.) Never put a large TV on a stand or entertainment center designed for a smaller set. Note that various products meant to secure TVs, as well as carts and furniture, have been recalled due to product failure. (See CPSC's recalls database to check a model.)

  • Consider a TV stand that has a lip along the outer edge, which can help keep the TV from being pushed or pulled off. Put a non-skid mat under the TV to make it harder for a child to move it. (Use one intended for kitchen or bathtub use, or available through office-supply retailers.) Push the TV as far back on the stand as possible, out of a child's reach.

  • Furniture holding a TV should be anchored to the floor or wall using brackets, screws, or braces. (Consider securing any large furniture in this way for safety. See our free report on childproofing devices for more information.) Do not attempt to drill holes into a TV to secure it to a wall or table. You may damage your TV--especially rear-projectors, which have sensitive electronics in the back.

  • Do not put a TV on furniture with drawers-- such as dressers or chests--that can be pulled out by young children and used to climb.

  • Do not place toys, remote controls, or other tempting items on top of TVs or other tall furniture.

  • Cover outlets with outlet protectors. Keep electrical cords and wires, remote controls, and chokable pieces out of children's reach, and teach children not to touch them.

  • Check with your child's school, day-care center, and health-care facilities to ensure that they have properly secured TVs. (TV tip-over accidents also occur in these environments.)

  • TV manufacturers should consider placing warning labels on their products reminding parents of the potential safety hazards of improper storage. Consumer Reports believes that the furniture industry should meet tougher standards to reduce the number of injuries and deaths from TV tip-over accidents, and that those standards should be mandatory.
See our free reports on CPSC's response to fatal TV tip-overs and 8 products not to buy for kids for more information.

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