WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the deaths of two siblings in Massachusetts, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is renewing its warning to consumers about the dangers associated with storage, cedar, hope and toy chests. 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.
CPSC has received reports of 34 deaths since 1996 involving children younger than 18. Tragically, in January 2014, a brother and sister in Franklin, Mass. suffocated to death after becoming trapped inside a 75-year-old Lane cedar chest recalled in 1996.
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.
For all other chests that have not been recalled but have an automatic latch/lock, disable or 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. These are key safety provisions of the federal toy standard, ASTM F963-07.