Bean Bag Chairs Are Recalled By The Millions, And The Reason Is Horrifying

The quintessential college dorm room accessory has just been recalled, and its defect is a deadly one. 2.2 million bean bag chairs are being recalled following the tragic deaths of two children who, according to safety experts, suffocated after managing to crawl inside the bean bags.

A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that the zippers in the Ace Bayou chairs had not been disabled, which allowed children to crawl inside the bags and become trapped. The combination of foam beads and a shortage of air became a lethal combination for a 13-year-old boy from McKinney, Texas, and a 3-year-old girl from Lexington, Kentucky.

The standard for bean bag chairs (though voluntary) states that the chairs must have closed and disabled zippers. Ace Bayou made their bean bags with two zippers — one easily accessible from the outside of the chair, and the other directly beneath the bean bag's cover, which allowed the children to find their way to the interior of the chair.

The chairs were sold by a number of retailers, including Wal-Mart, Meijer, Wayfair, and School Specialty, as well as online stores like Amazon.com, to several million customers. The bean bags in question came in several different colors and sizes, and were sold for between $30 and $100.

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Strangely, the recall doesn't exactly seem to be a traditional recall, at least not in the sense that customers are expected to bring the product back to the store. Rather, Ace Bayou, which is headquartered in New Orleans, is offering customers a free DIY fix-it kit, which would allow them to prevent the zippers from opening.

The kit includes the necessary equipment and instructions to install a "permanent closure ring," which essentially encircles the zipper, making it difficult to open. On its website, Ace Bayou claims that the "Safety Enhancement Kit is easily installable at home."

However, it does not appear that Ace Bayou is offering a refund or an exchange for the faulty products.

Despite the deaths of two children, Ace Bayou's voluntary recall was not spurred by a lawsuit. In fact, in an interview with their local Fox News station, the parents of 13-year-old Welton Bisson said that they never even considered suing the manufacturer.

“He had this bean bag chair for half of his life,” Rebecca Bisson, Welton's mother, told Fox, “He played video games in it, he read books in it; it never seemed like it could be dangerous to us."

While the family may not have considered a lawsuit, Rebecca Bisson told Fox News that she often tries to stop other parents from buying the bean bags, explaining how a seemingly harmless chair turned deadly for her son in 2011.

As such, learning of the recall has been a small comfort, though the Bissons said they were "shocked" to hear of the manufacturer's decision.

Welton lost his life after zipping himself into an L-shaped bean bag, but several other varieties of the bean bag face similar issues — the Ace Bayou chairs came in at least 3 different sizes of up to 40 inches in diameter, and were made with different fabrics as well.

Many of the bean bags made and sold before July 2013 are expected to have this problem, and customers are urged to inspect the chairs and take them away from children should the zippers be discovered to be unlocked.

This is certainly not the first time zippers have played a lethal role in bean bags. The CPSC first instated the voluntary protocol for zippers in nearly 20 years ago in 1995 after five other cases of customers choking on the "beans" were brought to their attention.

Last May, the Powell Company issued a recall of 6,300 Anywhere Longer bean bag chairs after discovering that the zippers could be easily opened. While no injuries or deaths were reported in relation to the Powell bean bags, the company still worried that the lack of a zipper closure would allow "young children to unzip, ingest or inhale the small beads inside of the bean bag chair, posing a suffocation and strangulation hazard."

Similarly to Ace Bayou, the Powell Company also offered customers a free home-repair kit that would serve as a permanent closure solution to the problem. While bean bag chairs may seem like an easy and harmless piece of furniture, manufacturers are urging consumers to take all necessary precautions to avoid tragedies from happening again.