Bean bag chairs are a popular type of chair manufactured from vinyl or leather material. They contain small pieces of Styrofoam or PVC pellets inside the bag. When a person sits in the chair, the outer material shapes around the body. Bean bag chairs were particularly popular during the 1960s and 1970s, but slowly began to fade out during the next decade. Their attractiveness resumed in the mid 1990s as newer, more comfortable versions of the popular chair emerged onto the market. Bean bag chairs are commonly used as a comfortable and fun means of lounging or relaxing.
The filling used in bean bag chairs varies from small pellets to shredded bits of polyurethane foam. Generally, the beads used to fill a bean bag chair are approximately 3-9 mm in diameter. However, micro-beads have now been introduced onto the market. These tiny bean bag chair beans can be as small as 1 mm in diameter.
A suffocation and choking hazard exists as a result of children unzipping the bean bag chairs and playing with the filling fibers, or crawling inside of the bag. In addition, inappropriately zippered bean bag chairs may release fibrous filling which can present a choking or asphyxiation danger. Bean bag chairs not meeting Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard regulations are subject to recall.
CPSC standard regulations for bean bag chairs were put into effect in November 1996. The CPSC requires that all bean bag chairs available on the market be modified in an effort to prevent young children from opening the zipper and gaining access to the fibrous materials inside. Any bean bag chair that is capable of being refilled must possess a zipper with a lock that can only be opened with a special tool. All other chairs must either have a disabled zipper or no zipper at all. Permanent warning labels must also be present on bean bag chairs. In an effort to ensure that proper, sturdy fabrics that will not easily rip or tear are used in the creation of the bag, further CPSC standards require durability tests on the materials used in the manufacturing of bean bag chairs.
At least five deaths related to bean bag chairs were reported to the CPSC by 1995, prior to the government regulations set forth in 1996. The deaths occurred when children unzipped the chairs and crawled inside. The small, fibrous pellets were inhaled, causing asphyxiation resulting in death.
At least 27 other incidences where children have choked on the pellets were also reported prior to CPSC standards.
In July 1995, as part of an ongoing investigation concerning bean bag chairs, five manufacturers of the chairs announced a voluntary recall of more than 140,000 bean bag chairs. Prior to this, more than 12 million bean bag chairs were included by 10 other manufacturers. The five companies included in the voluntary recall in July 1995 include: B.A.T, Golden Needle co., Holbrook-Patterson, Inc., Lazy Bean, and Lewco Corp. The bean bag chairs involved in the recall were sold at specialty stores, educational supply companies, and through catalogs between 1989 and 1995.
Thirty thousand bean bag chairs manufactured by Baseline Design of Linwood, Pennsylvania, were recalled as a result of suffocation and strangulation hazards. Three reports were received noting young children opening the zipper on the bean bag chair easily and freely. One child inhaled the beads and required medical attention. The beanbag chairs were sold at Wal-mart stores nationwide from September 1999 to December 1999. Motifs included a football shape, baseball shape, basketball shape, a smiley face, and solid neon colors in green, yellow, blue, and pink. The bean bag chairs had a 12-inch double zipper, and contained small polystyrene beads that posed a choking and strangulation hazard.