Toy Chests and Trunks Pose Hazard to Kids, CPSC Says

Two children suffocated in a Lane chest like this one early this year in Franklin, Mass.
Two children suffocated in a Lane chest like this one early this year in Franklin, Mass.CPSC

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Toy chests and trunks have been involved in 34 child deaths since 1996, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported Wednesday, warning parents to beware of chests — especially those that lock automatically.

Kids have suffocated after climbing into airtight chests with lids that automatically latch when closed, and have been strangled when they reached into chests and the lids closed suddenly on their necks, the agency said.

The issue made headlines early this year when a young brother and sister in Franklin, Mass., perished after they became trapped in a vintage hope chest. That chest, made by the Lane Furniture Company in 1939, could not be opened from the inside.

The company recalled 12 million of the Lane chests in 1996 following reports that six kids had died inside them. CPSC and the company renewed the search for recalled chests in 2000, when another suffocation death and two near fatalities were announced.

While nine children died in Lane chests, the additional deaths were related to chests that have been recalled and that have not been recalled, said Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the agency.

"In the aftermath of the tragedy in Franklin, Mass., we decided it was time to do a warning across all different types of chests, and in recent days, we did an additional data review beyond just the Lane cedar chests," he said.

While the agency has known about deaths with different kinds of chests, he said, "We felt this is the time to bring all the data together to do a single warning."

The items covered in the warning are toy chests; cedar chests, trunks and boxes; hope chests, blanket chests; storage benches and trunks. The problems affect mostly older chests.The agency urged consumers to replace or remove locks on chests that automatically latch closed when the lids are shut, or remove or replace the lid supports if they do not keep the lid open in every position and could come down quickly on a child who peeked inside.