In an effort to keep toys and household goods organized and out of view, many families have cedar, hope and toy chests in the home. Some are handed down from generation to generation. I have four such chests. One was passed down from my husband's mother, one was a gift and I bought two from antique shops. The antiques are around 70 years old.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is renewing its warning to consumers about the dangers associated with these types of chests following the deaths of two siblings in Massachusetts last January.
Tragically, a brother and sister suffocated after becoming trapped inside a 75-year-old Lane cedar chest that was recalled in 1996.
Lids on millions of storage chests and trunks can automatically latch shut, locking children inside and suffocating them. In addition, the lid supports on older toy chests can fail to prevent the lid from closing suddenly, entrapping or strangling children by the head or neck.
Storage and toy chest incidents have occurred when children climbed into chests to hide or sleep. The children could not get out and suffocated in the enclosed space because these spaces are airtight with no ventilation. Other children were strangled while reaching for items in a chest and the lid fell onto them or because their necks became entrapped between the chest's walls and its lid.
Types of chests with these hazards include toy chests, cedar chests, cedar trunks, cedar boxes, hope chests, blanket chests, storage benches, and storage trunks. These chests may be located in living areas or bedrooms and used daily, or stored in attics, basements or garages. They often are passed down as family heirlooms or found in resale stores.
CPSC is working with and appreciates the cooperation of the National Association of Resale Thrift Shops (NARTS), Goodwill Industries, and the Salvation Army to take steps to ensure that resale store managers and staff do not accept or sell chests that have been recalled or pose a danger to children. Consumers are also urged not to purchase or sell any recalled chest that has not been repaired. About 27 companies have taken action to correct more than 14 million toy and storage chests that posed a suffocation, strangulation or injury risk.
CPSC is advising consumers to remove the latch from the recalled Lane and Virginia Maid brand cedar chest made between 1912 and 1987 and to contact Lane for free replacement hardware. Twelve million chests were recalled in 1996.
CPSC has received reports of 34 deaths since 1996, associated with these types of chests, involving children younger than 18.
According to the CPSC, if you own a chest that is not covered in the recall, but has an automatic latch or lock system, you should remove the lock and check with the chest manufacturer to see if the manufacturer is offering replacement hardware.
If the lid support does not keep the lid open in every position, you should remove the lid's support or replace it with a spring-loaded lid support that will keep the lid open in any position. Remove or replace an unsafe adjustable lid support on these toy chests. In addition, all toy chests should have ventilation holes that are not blocked by the floor or against the wall.
I love the old chests that I have and they really come in handy for storing things, but I think it's time to bring them into to the 21st century with safety locks and springs.
It's a good idea to take a few minutes and look over the storage chests in your own home and to make sure they are safe for your children to be around.