Dangerous Furniture

Even the most indifferent observer may have noticed that not all the money we give our government is well-spent (“pith helmets for postal workers?”) but I confess that I have fallen in love with the U.S. Census Bureau.  I would gladly take them out for dinner and drinks.  If only my love were requited, I would send them a dozen roses.

How casually, how glibly, they provide the most intimate information about ourselves.  They tell me that in 1997, almost 110,000 people went to emergency rooms from accidents with their sofas, couches and davenports.

This number is about half of those injured by their own tables or by their chairs.  I’d go lie down and think about it but 400,000 people were injured involving their beds.  In other words, every day 1000 of our fellow Americans are involved with dangerous bedding.  Mind you these are not the casual accident of waking up with chenille lines on your face, but emergency room visits.

Despite my breathless exhortations, the Census Bureau seems unwilling, however, to tell me how this could happen.  Pulling on a sweater while walking around the living room? Eating the stuffing?  Refusing to move the furniture before a living room re-enactment of Disco Dance Party?  Perhaps we’ve simply become a nation of careless sitters.  Let’s hope not.  There were 43,000 accidents with toilets.

And, worse yet, accidents with sofas are almost three times the number of accidents with scissors.  Clearly, Mom was wrong.  She should have told us not to run with couches.

The obvious solution is to augment the warning labels.  “Kids, this sofa is not a toy.  It is not a very good trampoline.” But, it’s not like they don’t warn us about things already.  There’s a bottle of dried bobcat urine (to keep pests out of the garden) that says “Not for human consumption” or the ovenware that says “Ovenware will get hot when used in oven”.  There’s a heat gun that says “Do not use this tool as a hairdryer”.  My package of Austin Peanut Butter Crackers includes the warning that the package includes peanut ingredients.  Perhaps I should take some cold comfort in this.  After all, Heinz does sell both cider vinegar and imitation cider vinegar.

But, back to the topic at hand (such as it is).  The Furniture Fire Safety Act requires upholstered furniture to be labeled with:

“This product contains polyurethane foam and presents a severe fire hazard! In case of fire, serious personal injury or death can result from extreme heat, rapid oxygen depletion, and the production of toxic gases. Do not expose this product to any intense radiant heat or open flames such as space heaters, open burning, cigarettes, naked lights, matches, electrical sparks, or other intense heat sources.”  And so I would strongly encourage you not to smoke your sofa.

I’d go fix myself a cup of coffee and sit down and worry about all of this if I weren’t so scared of the coffee maker.  Maybe I’ll just go and write a thank you to the Census Bureau.  I couldn’t find any statistics on accidents with pen and paper.