October 24, 2000Appliance Manufacturers Announce
Voluntary Recall Initiative for Old Chest Freezers
DC (SafetyAlerts) - In cooperation
with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Association of Home Appliance
Manufacturers (AHAM) and its refrigerator/freezer manufacturing members have announced a
voluntary recall initiative to prevent suffocation deaths to children who become trapped
inside non-working chest freezers in homes.
Up to 9 million chest freezers were manufactured between 1945 and 1970 before voluntary
safety standards went into effect allowing freezers to be opened from the inside. Although
some manufacturers had freezers that were in compliance prior to the 1970 standards, most
old chest freezers have latches that can trap a child. Children playing
"hide-and-seek" have found the non-working freezers a deadly place to hide. When
the lid closes, children can become trapped inside and suffocate - usually in less than
Consumers should properly dispose of these non-working freezers immediately or disable the
latch if disposal is impossible. AHAM has set up a special toll-free number (800) 267-3138
from which consumers will be sent detailed information on identifying the affected units
and how to dispose of them or disable the latch. Even if a consumer has a pre- 1970 chest
freezer that is working, they should still call the toll-free number to get information on
what to do when the freezer is no longer working. Consumers also can receive information
Tragically, 27 children have died from suffocation between 1980 and 1999 after becoming
trapped in the freezers. The deaths occurred in non-working freezers stored outside, in
basements or garages. Victims ranged in age from two to fourteen. In many cases, more than
one child suffocated inside the freezer.
The freezers that are part of this program were made before 1970 by more than 40
manufacturers, a number of whom do not exist today. Consumers can determine if their chest
freezer poses a hazard by trying to open the freezer without using the handle. If the
freezer can be opened by pulling up on sides of the lid, it is not a hazard. If the lid
only opens by using the handle, it needs to be properly disposed of or disabled.
"Many of these old freezers are still sitting in people's basements or abandoned in
backyards," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "This is an innovative cooperative
effort that helps get safety information to consumers and saves lives."
"We are hopeful this partnership between manufacturers and the government will help
save children's lives. We urge all consumers with an affected freezer to dispose of the
unit as soon as possible," said Joseph M. McGuire, president of AHAM.
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