Danger: Falling Televisions


Any child’s death is a heart-wrenching tragedy.

The Connecticut school shooting this week that left 26 people dead -- including 20 kids -- is still raw. While mass killings have occurred in countries with strict firearms-possession laws, the epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. is staggering in its proportions and it's not a new phenomenon. I hope this latest massacre finally leads to more gun-control laws that will eliminate the legal availability of military-style assault weapons here.

Meanwhile, there’s a potentially deadly menace in everyone’s home that is less obvious: TV sets.

In 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded the highest one-year number of fatalities reported from falling TVs, furniture or appliances, with 41 (up from 31 in 2010 and 27 in 2009).

I don’t mean to equate gun violence with household accidents -- guns, of course, are designed to kill and maim. But we should take every step we can to keep our families safe from harm.

According to a CPSC report released Thursday, between 2000 and 2011, 349 people -- 84% of them children younger than 9 -- were killed when TVs, furniture or appliances toppled over onto them. Falling televisions were involved in 62% of reported fatalities.

You may find the increase in 2011 deaths surprising, as I did, given that essentially all TVs sold today are flat-panel displays, which are frequently secured to a wall. But according to the CPSC, as families purchase newer flat-screen televisions, many times they move their older (often heavier) TVs into bedrooms or other rooms in the house and don’t properly anchor them. The commission said 40% of fatalities from falling TVs and furniture occurred in bedrooms and 19% occurred in living rooms or family rooms.

"We know that low-cost anchoring devices are effective in preventing tip-over incidents," CPSC chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in announcing the report. "I urge parents to anchor their TVs, furniture and appliances and protect their children. It takes just a few minutes to do and it can save lives."

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