Charlie Horn, 2½, died in 2007 after a 30-inch-high dresser fell on him.
Photo: Courtesy of Brett Horn

Update: On Nov. 7, a standard-setting subcommittee agreed to vote on revising the scope of the industry’s voluntary stability standard for clothing storage units, such as dressers. This revision would eliminate the exemption for clothing storage units 30 inches in height and under. ASTM International, a standards development organization, convened the meeting.

A small group led by Delta Children and including CR worked for months on potential changes. Before agreeing to a vote, the subcommittee reviewed results of stability testing from Consumer Reports on dressers 30 inches in height and shorter (included in this Nov. 1 story) and also heard from parents whose children died after a dresser tipped over onto them. The subcommittee is expected to vote through a ballot by early January.


Even though a piece of furniture is low and seems stable—perhaps a dresser only three drawers high—it might still pose a deadly tip-over risk to small children in your home, a Consumer Reports investigation has found.

Right now, dressers sold in the U.S. are not governed by a mandatory stability standard and are not required to pass any premarket tests. The industry operates under a strictly voluntary safety standard, and it is up to individual manufacturers to decide whether they will meet the standard or not.

The treatment of shorter dressers represents a potentially deadly loophole in the industry’s standard, which says dressers taller than 30 inches should stay upright with 50 pounds of weight hanging from any open drawer when the other drawers are closed and the dresser is empty. Dressers that are 30 inches tall and under are exempt.  

More on Furniture Tip-Overs

CR’s continuing investigation into the dangers of furniture tip-overs—including an extensive review of several years’ worth of incident reports from the federal government—has uncovered examples of tip-over-linked deaths involving dressers that are not subject to the industry's voluntary standard. Specifically, records released in June showed that at least five fatal tip-overs were linked to dressers that measured 30 inches or lower.

As part of its ongoing analysis, Consumer Reports recently evaluated short dressers based on a series of three progressively tougher tests (see our test results below).

In total, we tested 17 dressers marketed as measuring 30 inches tall and under (although in our lab we measured three of them as slightly taller than 30 inches). More than half (nine) failed all but one of the tests. But five passed all our tests, including an Ikea dresser costing $150, demonstrating that a stable, affordable dresser at this height is possible.

We’ve also seen companies responding to our results. When CR notified Wayfair in October that the Drumnacole dresser it was selling failed our 50-pound stability test, the company said it immediately stopped selling the product in response to our testing results.

Our findings highlight the need for strong safety standards for all dressers, not just taller ones.

“As it stands now, a manufacturer following the industry standard can legitimately say that its lineup of dressers is compliant with the industry’s standard, even if it manufactures one of these low dressers that has been shown to pose risk of injury or death to children,” says James Dickerson, CR’s chief scientific officer. “Our results show why a standard that includes dressers 30 inches and shorter is both feasible and necessary.”

The need is urgent because every 17 minutes an unsecured piece of furniture, appliance, or television tips over and injures—or kills—someone in the U.S., according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the government agency with oversight of household products. And research shows that dressers and other clothing storage units are particularly lethal, accounting for at least 206 reported deaths since the year 2000.

Most of the victims are children younger than 6.

The nation’s furniture tip-over epidemic is particularly insidious because the danger is all around us, inside our homes—unless parents, grandparents, and other caregivers use special kits to strap or anchor furniture to walls.

But some parents whose children were killed in a tip-over incident have told CR they didn’t know about the need for furniture anchors or straps until after their children died.

Brett Horn, whose son, Charlie, died in 2007 after a 30-inch dresser fell on him, says he could not have imagined that the low dresser in his little boy’s room could end up being so dangerous.

That day, Charlie, 2½ and a triplet, woke up from a nap in the bedroom he shared with his brother. Investigators believe Charlie opened the bottom-left drawer of the 30-inch-tall dresser in his room, and while it is unclear exactly what happened, the dresser tipped over onto him.

Charlie’s “body cushioned the fall of the dresser so there was no loud noise when the dresser fell,” the CPSC incident report says. It was so quiet that it didn’t even wake his brother from his nap in the same room.

When the babysitter went into the bedroom to retrieve the brothers, she found Charlie underneath the dresser, unresponsive. He did not survive.

In addition to the family’s initial grief and shock, Horn told CR in a recent interview that he was stunned to discover that the dresser at fault was the shorter one, not the taller, bigger one that was also in the bedroom.

“The fact that that dresser could fall over on one of my kids never even crossed my mind,” said Horn, who on the day of the incident asked his brother-in-law to remove the deadly dresser. “When I got home that evening, I thought they took the wrong dresser. I still had assumed, like a lot of parents would assume, that it was a large dresser that had tipped over with a huge impact and killed Charlie. But it wasn’t. It was a dresser that was only 30 inches high—three drawers high and two drawers wide. . . . I never dreamed that anything like that could happen and hurt my child.” 

An Epidemic Hidden in Plain Sight

Why are some dressers so dangerous? A dresser’s center of gravity shifts when someone pulls open a drawer, says CR’s Dickerson. Add weight to that drawer—for example when a young child tugs on the drawer handle or hangs on the drawer front—and this can increase the likelihood of a dresser toppling forward with surprising speed and force, he says.

This chain of events can quickly turn what might initially seem to be a stable dresser—one that’s low and wide—into a tip-over hazard.

In some cases, dresser tip-overs happen when children open one drawer or multiple drawers. At other times the incident occurs when children use the drawers to climb and reach for something on top of the furniture. In many instances, the children are alone in their bedrooms, having just woken up from a nap or a night’s sleep.

“A lot of these injuries happen to children who are no longer in a crib” says Peter Kerin, founder and owner of Foresight Childproofing, a company based in Minneapolis that creates child-safe environments and installs safety gear. “They’re put to bed and hugged and kissed goodnight, and if they get up in the middle of the night, the parents aren’t necessarily going to know.” It’s typical for a toddler or preschooler to “decide they want something on top of the dresser,” he says. “They pull open a drawer or two and climb up on it … and, unfortunately, some dressers tip even without a child climbing on them.” 

Podcast: Hear Moms Tell Their Stories



Many safety proponents believe that even if manufacturers do meet the current voluntary standard, it’s not sufficient to protect against tip-overs because the testing isn’t rigorous or creative enough.

“Stronger standards that hold up under real-world scenarios are what’s needed,” says Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, a nonprofit child safety organization.

According to industry trade group the American Home Furnishings Alliance, when the standard was first established in 2000 it was focused on furniture thought to be most likely to be involved in tip-over incidents: pieces taller than 30 inches.

But because furniture designs and styles have evolved in the 18 years since the standard was created, many, including CR, are reevaluating the need for expanding the types of dressers that need to be put through safety testing.

The CPSC was supposed to issue a proposed rule earlier this year addressing the tip-over hazard posed by clothing storage units, like dressers, potentially including those 30 inches tall or less. In an official notice requesting comments on the subject, the agency said that “there have been incidents involving [clothing storage units] that are 30 inches tall or less. These products may present a hazard particularly to children because low-height [dressers] may be intended for children and these products can weigh as much as 100 pounds.”

When CR reached out to Ann Marie Buerkle, acting chairman of the CPSC, to ask whether she is in favor of expanding the voluntary standard to include shorter dressers, she said that she “strongly supports the voluntary standards activities underway” and looks “forward to hearing more of the standard’s development, including clothing storage units 30 inches and under.”

That said, the CPSC’s recently approved operating plan shows that the agency is no longer planning on issuing either a proposed rule or a final rule during the fiscal year ending in September 2019 but instead is focusing on collecting more data through testing.

We notified all the companies whose products failed our 50-pound test. All those that responded said they meet current voluntary standards, which currently do not apply to these shorter dressers. Wayfair, which sold the Drumnacole, said that in addition to removing the product from its website in response to our findings, it is also working with the supplier of the product, which said it will look to strengthen its safety guidelines and make changes as needed.

We noted that four dressers that failed our 50-pound test—one from Pottery Barn Kids, one from Nexera, and two from South Shore—did not come with furniture straps, which serve as anti-tip restraints, and are required, as part of the voluntary standard, to accompany dressers taller than 30 inches. So a parent buying one of these shorter dressers would have to buy aftermarket furniture anchors.

Some manufacturers told CR they test all their products regardless of the exemption. Laura Wood, international sourcing coordinator at Lexington Home Brands, says that the company tests dressers for stability irrespective of their height. “Fundamentally we believe that an item should be inherently stable,” Wood says. “If it is not, it is not serving its intended purpose. Meaning if you can’t open a drawer and put clothing in it without it falling over, that is a problem.”

CR’s testing also illustrated, yet again, that a dresser’s stability is not obvious to the naked eye because it is not contingent on any one characteristic or design element. Many factors contribute to a dresser’s stability—for example, its overall weight and depth, whether or not it has a back weight, and its drawer extension length. Therefore, it is not easy—or even necessarily possible—for consumers to discern which dressers are unsteady and which ones are safer.  

Time for a Change

Given the state of the market, consumer advocates—including Consumers Union, the advocacy division of CR—believe that the current voluntary standard is neither robust enough nor broad enough to protect consumers.

“We’re urging the CPSC to set a strong mandatory standard so that consumers can trust that dressers for sale will resist tipping over onto young children,” says William Wallace, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union. “This would allow regulators to enforce the rules and more easily gain industry cooperation for recalls. In the meantime, the furniture industry should act now to cover shorter dressers under its voluntary standard.”

Brett Horn, who has lived through a tip-over tragedy, says it doesn’t make sense to cut the standard off at a particular height.

“Having the [standard] start at a certain height is nonsensical. I think all pieces of furniture designed for children or otherwise should be averse to tipping over,” says Horn, who in 2008, with his wife, Jenny Horn, co-founded Charlie’s House, a nonprofit organization that educates families about how to prevent injuries in and around the home. “It’s common sense. Should we put airbags in certain cars and not in others? I think any clothing storage unit or dresser or piece of furniture that could potentially harm a child should be built and designed to not tip over easily.” 


Test Results for Dressers 30 Inches and Under

CR conducted tip-over testing on 17 dresser models marketed as measuring 30 inches tall and under that represent a cross-section of the retail market, using progressively tougher tests. Twelve of these 17 dressers were purchased and tested between June 2018 and October 2018. The other five were evaluated in prior rounds of testing.


HOW WE TESTED

We performed three tests with all the drawers empty.

In Test 1, all drawers were open.

In Test 2, the top drawer was open to its final stop and a 50-pound weight was hung from the drawer front.

In Test 3, the top drawer was open to its final stop and the 50-pound weight was increased in 1-pound increments to a maximum of 60 pounds, which represents the upper weight range for children affected by tip-overs.

Consumer Reports conducts its tests for the purpose of comparison and not for compliance. Our results are not meant as indicators of whether or not a dresser meets the voluntary industry standard set by ASTM International, a consensus standards-setting organization.

Dressers shaded in blue are from the latest round of tests.

Model Specs Test Number
 1 2 3
Bellanest Aversa Bedroom 6-Drawer Dresser*
$550
H30.19"xW64”xD18.94"

157 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Lexington Kitano 3-Drawer Nightstand
$1,500
H29.25"xW36.25”xD20"

169.6 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Epoch Design Nara Bamboo Lowboy 4- Drawer Dresser
$900
H24"xW54.13”xD20.88"

120.8 lb.

Anchor Included: NO
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Restoration Hardware Callum 6 Drawer Dresser*
$1,300
H30.38"xW45”xD20"

115.2 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Ikea NORDLI
$150
H30"xW31.5”xD18.5"

92 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Sauder Barrister Lane 3 Drawer Chest
$230
H29.5"xW36.56”xD16.81"

86.4 lb.

Anchor Included: NO
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Hooker Furniture Corsica Bachelors 3 Drawer Chest*
$1,190
H30.38"xW42.13”xD19"

107.6 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
South Shore Logik 6-Drawer Double Dresser B
$160
H27.38”xW51.19”xD18.88”

108.6 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Ameriwood Home Mixed Material 3 Drawer Dresser
$100
H29.88"xW31.25”xD16.9"

68.8 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Homestar Central Park 3 Drawer Chest
$90
H30"xW27.56”xD16.5"

49.2 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Prepac Bella 6-Drawer Dresser
$185
H28.50"xW47.44”xD16.25"

82.4 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Nexera Montreal Kids 6-Drawer Double Dresser, Maple
$268
H28.63"xW48.25”xD17.75"

87.6 lb.

Anchor Included: NO
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Corrigan Studio Drumnacole 6 Drawer Double Dresser
$710
H29.75"xW47.25”xD17.75"

103.8 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Pottery Barn Kids Belden End of Bed 2-Drawer Dresser
$500
H22.88"xW40.75”xD16.44"

70.4 lb.

Anchor Included: NO
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
South Shore Logik 6-Drawer Double Dresser A
$200
H29.63”xW47.5”xD17.5”

103.6 lb.

Anchor Included: NO
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
Essential Home Belmont 4 Drawer Dresser Chest (Ameriwood)
$60
H29.88”xW27.75”xD15.75”

47.0 lb.

Anchor Included: YES
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.
South Shore Libra 3-Drawer Chest (similar to: Simply Basics 3 Drawer Dresser)
$75
H27.5”xW31.38”xD16”

57.2 lb.

Anchor Included: NO
Drawers Open 50 LB. 60 LB.

* These models were marketed as measuring 30 inches or less. When we got them into our labs and measured them, they were slightly above 30 inches.

CR conducted tip-over testing on 17 dresser models marketed as measuring 30 inches tall and under that represent a cross-section of the retail market, using progressively tougher tests. Twelve of the 17 dressers were purchased and tested between June 2018 and October 2018. The other five were evaluated in prior rounds of testing.


HOW WE TESTED

We performed three tests with all the drawers empty.

In Test 1, all drawers were open.

In Test 2, the top drawer was open to its final stop and a 50-pound weight was hung from the drawer front.

In Test 3, the top drawer was open to its final stop and the 50-pound weight was increased in 1-pound increments to a maximum of 60 pounds, which represents the upper weight range for children affected by tip-overs.

Consumer Reports conducts its tests for the purpose of comparison and not for compliance. Our results are not meant as indicators of whether or not a dresser meets the voluntary industry standard set by ASTM International, a consensus standards-setting organization.

Dressers shaded in blue are from the latest round of tests.

Model & Price Specs Test Number
 1 2 3
Bellanest Aversa Bedroom 
6-Drawer Dresser*
$550
30.19" high x
64” wide x
18.94" deep

157 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Lexington Kitano 
3-Drawer Nightstand
$1,500
29.25" high x
36.25” wide x
20" deep

169.6 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Epoch Design Nara Bamboo Lowboy 
4-Drawer Dresser
$900
24" high x
54.13” wide x
20.88" deep

120.8 lb.

Anchor included: NO
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Restoration Hardware Callum 
6-Drawer Dresser*
$1,300
30.38" high x
45” wide x
20" deep

115.2 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Ikea Nordli
$150
30" high x
31.5” wide x
18.5" deep

92 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Sauder Barrister Lane 
3-Drawer Chest
$230
29.5" high x
36.56” wide x
16.81" deep

86.4 lb.

Anchor included: NO
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Hooker Furniture Corsica Bachelors 
3 Drawer Chest*
$1,190
30.38" high x
42.13” wide x
19" deep

107.6 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
South Shore Logik 
6-Drawer Double Dresser B,
$160
27.38” high x
51.19” wide x
18.88” deep

108.6 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Ameriwood Home Mixed Material 
3 Drawer Dresser
$100
29.88" high x
31.25” wide x
16.9" deep

68.8 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Homestar Central Park 3 Drawer Chest
$90
30" high x
27.56” wide x
16.5" deep

49.2 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Prepac Bella 6-Drawer Dresser
$185
28.50" high x
47.44” wide x
16.25" deep

82.4 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Nexera Montreal Kids 
6-Drawer Double Dresser, Maple
$268
28.63" high x
48.25” wide x
17.75" deep

87.6 lb.

Anchor included: NO
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Corrigan Studio Drumnacole 6 Drawer Double Dresser
$710
29.75" high x
47.25” wide x
17.75" deep

103.8 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Pottery Barn Kids Belden End of Bed 2-Drawer Dresser
$500
22.88" high x
40.75” wide x
16.44" deep

70.4 lb.

Anchor included: NO
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
South Shore Logik 
6-Drawer Double Dresser A
$200
29.63” high x
47.5” wide x
17.5” deep

103.6 lb.

Anchor included: NO
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
Essential Home Belmont 4 Drawer Dresser Chest (Ameriwood)
$60
29.88” high x
27.75” wide x
15.75” deep

47.0 lb.

Anchor included: YES
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.
South Shore Libra 
3-Drawer Chest (similar to: Simply Basics 
3 Drawer Dresser)
$75
27.5” high x
31.38” width x
16” deep

57.2 lb.

Anchor included: NO
Drawers open 50 lb. 60 lb.

*These models were marketed as measuring 30 inches or less. When we got them into our labs and measured them, they were slightly above 30 inches.


To Stay Safe, Anchor Your Furniture

There is something you can do now to help prevent tip-overs at home: Anchor your furniture to the wall.  

Note that this may require you to buy anti-tip restraints separately from your furniture purchase because there is no expectation that shorter dressers—which are not covered by the voluntary standard—will be sold with the additional hardware.

So it’s up to you to make sure you have an appropriate anchor or strap, and attach it to the wall and your furniture—no matter the height or size of the dresser or whether you bought it new or received it used. It requires extra steps and extra effort, but it is worth it.