Cedar chests are a common heirloom furniture item – maybe you inherited one from a relative, received one as a gift, or picked up one at a thrift store or estate sale. They might be the perfect place to store your winter clothes during the off-season, but chests from Lane or Virginia Maid before 1987 have a flaw: they latch automatically when the lid is closed.
That’s not a problem when you’re putting away your sweaters, but it is a problem if you’re a kid playing at home who climbs in the chest and closes the lid. Yes, that does really happen.
Earlier this year, a brother and sister, 7 and 8 years old, locked themselves in a cedar chest in their home in Massachusetts. Their father was the only adult at home, and he was watching TV in another room while his children suffocated to death.
According to the CPSC, there have been 36 known deaths resulting from people locked in auto-latching cedar chests. Lane and the CPSC estimate that while twelve million cedar chests subject to the recall were sold, there are still six million out there in need of a new latch.
The repair is simple: for chests made since 1940, it just changes the chest latch so that someone has to press a button on the outside to latch the lid closed. For chests made before 1940, the new hardware doesn’t latch closed at all.
If you have a Lane or Virginia Maid chest in your home, get a replacement lock by filling out this website form or call the company at (800) 327-6944. Have your chest’s style and serial numbers handy–the website shows you where to find them.
CPSC, Lane Home Furniture Urge Renewed Search for Cedar Chests: Two Recent Deaths Reported [CPSC]
Hand-me-down hope chests pose a danger to kids [Consumer Reports]
Two Franklin children die in hope chest [Boston Globe]