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Why that vintage toy chest may be dangerous

Toy chests were part of many of our childhoods. Some of us had a big wooden one handed down through the generations. Of course, like all things child-related, toy chests have gotten more creative and unique. For example, some are built into children's beds now.

However, toy chests can pose serious dangers to children -- particularly very young ones. Brain damage and other serious head and neck injuries can result if the lid falls on a child as while he or she is reaching in. Some children have suffocated when the lid closed and trapped them inside. Other children have gotten lead poisoning from their toy chest.

Parents need to look out for potential dangers, particularly if they are buying a toy chest second-hand or getting one from a family member or friend. Be aware of these two hazards in particular:

-- A chest that automatically latches when the lid closes can trap a child.

-- A chest without strong lid supports that can cause the lid to fall on a child's delicate head or trap them inside.

Federal regulators and manufacturers have taken action to deal with potential hazards. In the past decade, over 21,500 chests have been recalled. Back in 1996, the Lane Furniture Company, which has been making toy chests for over a century, issued a recall of some 12 million toy chests that included some sold as long ago as 1912.

Many of us have seen images of the iconic Lane cedar chests from the early 20th century. Some people have them in their homes, thanks to family members who passed them down. However, these chests and other wooden ones made in subsequent decades pose the danger of heavy lids falling and becoming latched shut. Because so many of these chests are still around, Lane reissued that 1996 recall in 2000 and again in 2014.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that toy chests not be able to automatically latch when the lid closes. The lid must also be able to remain open on its own.

It's only natural to want to share treasured childhood memories with our children, including dolls, toys and furniture. However, remember that even if you're a young parent, safety standards for children's items (or any products) weren't what they are now. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website and other child safety sites for recall and hazard information.

Source: Kids in Danger, "Product Hazards - Toy Chest," accessed Oct. 21, 2015

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