After reports of two deaths and a massive recall, some people are beginning to question the safety of beanbags. The circumstances that led to two children losing their lives in 2011 were unfortunate and tragic, and we express our sincere condolences to the families involved. However, like most tragedies, the hysteria fueled by the mass media has blown the true dangers out of proportion.
The truth of the matter is that a bean bag is no more dangerous than any other piece of furniture. Unless it contains vinyl which is known to cause cancer. An inherent risk is involved when any objects or furnishings are used improperly or manufactured without the required safety features. Cribs, high chairs, mattresses and toys of all sorts have been held responsible for the injuries and deaths of both children and adults. However, these accidents, including those involving bean bags, can be prevented by ensuring that the furniture or other objects meet all of the safety regulations.
Bean Bags Recalled
In August 2014, approximately 2.2 million bean bags distributed in the United States were recalled by Ace Bayou Corp. on the recommendation of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The problem with the bean bags is that the zippers do not conform to U.S. safety standards. Two children, a 13-year-old boy in Texas and a 3-year-old girl in Kentucky, died of suffocation after unzipping the bags and crawling inside.
Because these bean bag chairs are not meant to be refilled, the zippers are supposed to be permanently closed or disabled to prevent them from being opened by children who may inhale and choke on the polystyrene filling.
The bean bags that were recalled have two zippers, one for the exterior cover and another for the interior lining. However, they do not include any safety features, and both can be easily opened. The chairs were manufactured before July 2012 in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Some are round and range in diameter from 30 inches to 42 inches. While others are L-shaped chairs 18 inches wide by 30 inches deep by 30 inches high.
All of the beanbags were made in China. But they were sold at U.S. stores, including Big Lots, Walmart, Bon-Ton, Meijer, Wayfair and Younkers. In addition, they were available online at Amazon.com and retailed for $30 to $100.
Anyone who owns a chair or round bag with the Ace Bayou label is asked to return it to the company for replacement immediately. Alternately, Ace Bayou is issuing kits free of charge to anyone who asks that will permanently close the zippers to prevent similar accidents.
Bean Bag Safety Standards
Defective and poorly made bean bags have been known to cause serious injuries for quite some time. But new industry standards are in place to stop these accidents from occurring. In the United States, manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to the standards. In Australia, the safety standards are mandatory.
The CPSC issued its voluntary standards in November 1996 after several safety issues came to light in the early 1990s. Most of these standards are in regards to the zippers. Beanbags that are not intended to be refilled must have either a zipper that has been permanently disabled or no zipper at all. Bean bags that are designed to be refilled must have a locking zipper that requires a special tool to open.
Beanbags must also be made of a sturdy material that does not easily tear. And they must be double stitched on the inside of the fabric. The stitched material must pass strict tests to ensure it meets the safety standards. In addition, manufacturers are required to include a warning label on all bean bags about the dangers of choking and suffocation.
In Australia, beanbag safety is regulated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC). The mandatory standard was set in 2004, and it is very similar to the one in the United States.
Be Safe and Have Fun With BeanBags
Because beanbags are filled with small objects, they may pose a hazard when the interior is accessible by children. However, all manufacturers in the U.S. and Australia should abide by the safety regulations already in place. If you are in another country or want to ensure that your bean bags are safe, check to see that the zipper is closed, the material is strong and durable and the seams do not leak. When the filling is securely inside, even large beanbag chairs pose no more hazard than any other furniture. In fact, they provide several advantages over traditional chairs and are recommended by many doctors.