Tipping TVs could endanger children

December 13, 2007 10:36:11 PM PST
In the last two months in the Chicago area there have been four cases of TVs falling on children. One child died.When it comes to safety, a television falling on a child is probably not among a parent's top worries. But doctors are alarmed by the serious harm and death caused by these recent cases. They say the accidents are preventable, and they're offering advice for parents.

At the young age of two-and-a-half, Hannah Spann is learning how to walk all over again. She spent the last three months in the hospital recovering from an accident that almost left her dead.

"By the time I turned around, everything was down, and the television was on top of the drawer. She was knocked over to the side," said mother Melissa Williams.

"She had a severe fracture of her skull base through both of her orbits. The bones around her eyeballs were fractured as well," said Dianna Bardo, pediatric radiologist, University of Chicago Medical Center.

The disturbing pictures taken after the accident show just how bad off she was and how lucky Hannah is to be alive. Tthe scars on her head are a reminder of what happened. But the extent of her brain damage is still not known.

"We did a search in our computer system here and found 12 children injured by televisions in the last three years, but six of those have been in the last six months, so there is something going on here," said Bardo.

She said the scenarios were similar, with children climbing on furniture, trying to reach something, and the heavy furniture and or TV tipped over and crushed them. The injuries included head trauma, brain damage and even death. Five-year-old Sergio Chavez was rushed to the hospital just two weeks ago after a television set fell on his head in his South Side home. He died of his head injuries.

"It's something that is so preventable," said Bardo.

Each year, an estimated 3,000 children, ages 5 and under, go to emergency rooms with injuries caused by TV sets. A recent study in the Journal Pediactrics and Child Health found some of the blame can be placed on newer TVs that carry most of the weight in the front, making them more unstable and easier to tip over.

At University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital, parents are given hand outs that focus on the risks. Dr. Alison Tothy, with pediatric emergency medicine, said there are simple solutions.

"You can get an L-shaped bracket from the hardware store, and that's probably the cheapest way. And you just secure it through the wall through an anchor stud," she said.

Dr. Tothy said to secure your TVs with straps or buckles. Other tips: keep electrical cords out of reach. Move toys and any items away from the TV set. Keep drawers closed to deter climbing.

They're all simple tips Hannah's mother wished she had thought about before.

"I never heard of anything like this happening. I grew up with TVs everywhere all around the house and nothing like this has ever happened," Williams said.

State and national lawmakers have been trying to get warning labels placed on furniture and television sets to alert people of possible dangers. They're also trying to enact tougher restrictions so these products are built with safety in mind. But experts say the bottom line is that it's up to parents to make sure the home is safe and to never underestimate the possibility of a small child being crushed by unsteady furniture.

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