Falling furniture putting children at risk

June 22, 2009 2:25:20 PM PDT
Falling furniture is putting children at risk. Doctors at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital call it a "real public health issue." Experts said more youngsters are being hurt by falling furniture, like televisions. Parents may want to rethink how safe their child is playing around the television.

Sitting down together to watch TV is routine for most families, but for the Stevensons, it's a reminder of a scary situation. Recently, Michael and his sister, Julianne, were in a bedroom watching TV when they both decided to climb the dresser. In an instant, everything fell and their mother rushed in to find a 40-pound television had crashed onto the head of her 3-year old son.

"I think the part that scared her the most was blood coming out of one ear, and then, you know?I don't know if I could describe what it's like, but to see one side of his face not moving," said father Shawn Stevenson.

The TV fractured Michael's skull in two places leaving him temporarily deaf on one side and his face paralyzed on the other. A new study claims injuries like this happen much more often than you might think.

"Each year in this country, almost 15,000 children are treated in hospital emergency departments for injuries related to furniture tip-overs," said Dr. Gary Smith, Professor of Pediatrics at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

In 2006 in Houston, there were 11 reported injuries from falling televisions at one hospital alone. Dr. Smith said while dressers and book cases are a risk, most of the time it's TVs that fall on kids.

TV sets have gotten much bigger over the years and many older models are front-heavy, which makes them tip much easier. That's why securing large pieces of furniture to the wall with straps or brackets is crucial.

"Never put attractive items such as a toy or a TV remote control on top of the furniture, on top of the TV. Children often will try to climb up to reach those and that will cause the furniture to topple over on top of them," said Dr. Smith.

Most of the kids who are hurt are boys, less than 7-years-old and most suffer blows to the head. Experts said many parents have no idea how quickly a situation can turn tragic.

Researchers say that between 1990 and 2007, more than 260,000 kids wound up in the emergency room and more than 300 were killed by falling furniture.

Experts said while flat screen TVs are lighter, they're just as dangerous. Many of them are still very heavy to young children, and have sharp edges that can cut them.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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