Did you know that in the US, over 15 million refrigerators reach the end of their lifespan each year? This translates to around 43,000 tons of waste.

However, they can also pose a hidden danger, especially when safety measures are overlooked.

In this article, we’ll explore alarming refrigerator death statistics, shedding light on the potential risks and the importance of taking preventive actions to safeguard our loved ones.

refrigerator death statistics a hidden danger in the home

How Common is Refrigerator Death?

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are around 20-30 fatal accidents related to refrigerators in the United States each year.

The majority of these accidents involve children under the age of 5 who become trapped inside the refrigerator or freezer.

Tip-over incidents are one of the leading causes of refrigerator-related fatalities, accounting for about 70% of the cases.

Tip-over incidents occur when a refrigerator falls over and pins a person underneath it, crushing them or blocking their airway.

Refrigerator death was a more serious problem in the past, when refrigerators had mechanical latches that sealed the doors shut.

However, modern refrigerators have magnetic mechanisms that can be opened from the inside, reducing the risk of accidental entrapment.

According to Wikipedia, statistics for the 18 months from January 1954 to June 1956 show that 54 children were known to have been trapped in household refrigerators, and that 39 of them died.

As the issue rose in prominence, people were asked not to abandon refrigerators and to detach the doors of unused refrigerators.

In 1956, the U.S. passed the Refrigerator Safety Act, which required all refrigerators manufactured after October 1958 to have doors that can be opened from the inside.

According to CPSC, there were no reported deaths due to refrigerator tip-overs between 2017 and 2019.

However, there were four reported deaths due to suffocation in refrigerators between 2000 and 2019, all of which involved children under five years old.

CPSC advises consumers to remove doors from unused refrigerators or freezers, or lock them securely with a padlock or child safety lock.

What Causes Refrigerator Death?

what causes refrigerator death

Refrigerator death can happen when a person, usually a child, gets trapped inside a refrigerator that can only be opened from the outside.

This can occur in various scenarios, such as:

  • A child playing hide-and-seek or exploring a refrigerator that is not in use or has been discarded.
  • A child climbing into a refrigerator or freezer that is left open or unlocked.
  • A child being locked inside a refrigerator or freezer by another person as a prank or punishment.
  • An adult being locked inside a refrigerator or freezer by an intruder or assailant.
  • An adult falling asleep or losing consciousness inside a refrigerator or freezer.
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Once trapped inside, the person may not be able to escape or call for help. The lack of oxygen and the low temperature inside the refrigerator or freezer can cause asphyxiation and hypothermia, leading to death within minutes or hours.

What are Some Examples of Refrigerator Death?

what are some examples of refrigerator death

Refrigerator death can happen anywhere and anytime, even in places where one would least expect it.

Here are some examples of refrigerator death incidents that have occurred around the world:

In January 20, 2019 in Suwannee County, Florida, three children, ages 1, 4 and 6, were playing outside a home when they climbed into an unplugged chest freezer that was left in the yard.

The lid of the freezer closed and locked behind them, trapping them inside. The children were not able to open the lid from inside, and there was no device to let air into the freezer.

The children suffocated and died before they were found by an adult who was watching them.

The adult had gone inside the house to use the bathroom and did not see the children get into the freezer.

The adult called 911 and tried to resuscitate the children, but it was too late. The authorities ruled the deaths as accidental and did not file any charges against the adult. The freezer was later removed from the property.

In June 2018 in Karachi, Pakistan, a six-year-old boy died after being locked inside a refrigerator by his elder brother.

The boy was playing with his brother and cousin when they decided to hide him inside a refrigerator that was not working. They closed the door and left him there for about an hour.

When they returned, they found him unconscious and rushed him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The police registered a case of accidental death and did not arrest anyone.

In May 2017 in Johannesburg, South Africa, a five-year-old girl died after being trapped inside a fridge at her grandmother’s house.

The girl was playing with her cousins when she climbed into the fridge and got stuck. Her cousins did not notice her absence and continued playing.

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The girl’s grandmother found her inside the fridge after about two hours and tried to revive her, but it was too late.

The police opened an inquest into the death and did not suspect any foul play.

In April 2016 in Katy, Texas, a three-year-old boy died after being locked inside a car trunk that had a refrigerator inside it.

The boy was playing with his siblings in the driveway of their home when he wandered off and got into the trunk of a car that was parked nearby.

The car belonged to a neighbor who was moving out and had left some items in the trunk, including a refrigerator.

The boy closed the trunk behind him and became trapped inside. His family did not realize he was missing until they heard him crying from inside the trunk.

They broke the trunk open and found him unresponsive. They called 911 and performed CPR, but it was too late.

The boy was pronounced dead at a hospital. The police ruled the death as accidental and did not file any charges against anyone.

How to Prevent Refrigerator Death?

Refrigerator death is a preventable tragedy that can be avoided by following some simple safety tips:

1. Supervision is Key

Children are naturally curious, and their explorations can sometimes lead to hazardous situations.

Never leave them unattended near refrigerators, especially those that are not in use or have been discarded.

Unattended children might climb inside or accidentally tip over the appliance, causing severe injuries or entrapment.

2. No Play Zones

Children’s imaginations can turn even the most mundane objects into play areas. However, playing inside or around refrigerators or freezers is extremely risky.

Prevent them from using these appliances as hiding spots or playhouses to avoid potential accidents or entrapment.

3. No Locking Pranks

Locking someone inside a refrigerator or freezer, even as a joke or punishment, is never acceptable.

It can lead to life-threatening situations, such as suffocation or hypothermia. Always emphasize the importance of never engaging in such dangerous pranks.

4. Transport with Care

transport with care

When moving or transporting refrigerators or freezers, be cautious about their positioning.

Avoid transporting them in an upright position as they can become unstable and tip over during transportation, leading to serious injuries or property damage.

5. Mind the Top

Refrigerators and freezers might seem like convenient surfaces to store items, but this can be dangerous.

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Avoid placing heavy or sharp objects on top of these appliances. Heavy items might fall unexpectedly, causing injuries to anyone nearby, while sharp objects can pose potential hazards.

6. Unused Appliance Safety

unused appliance safety

If you have an unused refrigerator or freezer, take additional safety measures. Consider removing the doors entirely to prevent curious children from entering and becoming trapped.

Alternatively, you can securely lock the doors with a padlock or child safety lock to avoid potential entrapment accidents.

7. Proper Disposal

When it’s time to dispose of old or broken refrigerators or freezers, do it responsibly. These appliances contain refrigerants and other hazardous materials that can harm the environment if not disposed of properly.

Contact a local recycling center or waste management service to ensure safe and environmentally-friendly disposal.

8. Spread Awareness

Awareness is a powerful tool in preventing accidents. Educate yourself and others about the potential dangers of refrigerators and freezers.

By being informed, you can take proactive steps to create a safer living environment for everyone.

FAQs about refrigerator death

What is refrigerator death?

Refrigerator death is death by suffocation in a refrigerator or other air-tight appliance.

How many children died from refrigerator entrapment in the U.S. in the 1950s?

Statistics for the 18 months from January 1954 to June 1956 show that 54 children were known to have been trapped in household refrigerators, and that 39 of them died.

What law was passed to prevent refrigerator deaths in the U.S.?

The Refrigerator Safety Act in 1956 was a U.S. law that required a change in the way refrigerator doors stay shut.

It was largely responsible for the adoption of the magnetic mechanism that can be opened from the inside, reducing the danger of accidental entrapment.

How many tip-over deaths involving refrigerators have occurred in the U.S.?

Between 2000 and 2019, there were 21 deaths reported to the CPSC involving refrigerators tipping over and crushing victims. Most of these victims were children under 10 years old.

Conclusion

Refrigerator death is a rare but real phenomenon that can claim the lives of children and adults who become trapped or suffocated inside refrigerators or other air-tight appliances.

By being aware of the causes, consequences, and prevention of refrigerator death, we can help save lives and avoid unnecessary grief.

Resources:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refrigerator_death

2. https://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/News-Releases/2009/The-Tipping-Point-CPSC-Urges-Parents-to-Inspect-and-Secure-TVs-Furniture-and-Appliances-to-Prevent-Tip-Over-Deaths-and-Injuries

3. https://news.sky.com/story/three-children-die-after-getting-trapped-in-unplugged-freezer-in-florida-11607752

4. https://knewz.com/arizona-boy-starvation-parents/

5. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/children-die-in-refrigerator_n_3926649


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