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Not Your Mom’s Bean Bag Chair

bean bag dog messMany of us remember the days when bean bag chairs had a mixed reputation. While they were trendy, comfortable and everybody wanted one, they were not without their drawbacks. The basic design of the bean bag chair was pretty simple. A big bag was filled with exceptionally small polystyrene beads and was either sewn shut or closed with a zipper.

What annoyed many people was the tendency of the zippers or the seams to fail. You arrive home from a hard days work, plop down in your comfortable bean bag chair and then suddenly, the air is filled with tiny white beads and you feel as if you are in some giant snow globe. The little beads are made of polystyrene and are very susceptive to static electricity. In the same way that styrofoam packing peanuts seem to stick to everything, the tiny beads were a lot worse. The troublesome beads would end up scattered throughout the house.

The job of cleaning up thousands of tiny polystyrene beads was not easy. It was common to find the beads even months after the explosion of your favorite chair. The task involved in replacing the beads was nearly as frustrating as the squall of white plastic snow.

Now contrary to what you may have heard, the tiny beads are not known to be toxic. In spite of being fairly harmless, the tiny plastic beads could be the source of other serious health related problems. It was discovered that the tiny beads could be inhaled by children and pets. If the beads were inhaled, there was a genuine likelihood that the beads could become embedded in the sinus cavities or worse yet, in the lungs. Again, because the beads are not thought to be toxic, ingesting them was not necessarily without problems. Children and pets could choke on the beads. In reaction to concerns and complaints from consumers, bean bag manufacturers responded with safer designs.

bean bag kid messOne change that was adopted by manufacturers was really quite simple. Rather than rely on the outer bean bag chair cover to hold the beads, a second inner bag was added. This change alone allowed makers of bean bag chairs to use different materials for the bean bag cover. Instead of using vinyl, other materials like faux fur, suede and other fabrics became very popular.

Consumers liked the changes too. The bean bag cover could be removed for cleaning without the hassle of chasing little white beads for eternity. Even though many manufacturers made changes to the design of their bean bag chairs, issues with the release of the stuffing pellets persisted.

As time went by, a series of product recalls drove the effort to make the bean bag chair even safer. Consumer product recalls are usually the result of two things. The first is when a manufacturer voluntarily initiates a recall. The purpose of the recall is to prevent the further distribution of suspect products and to compensate consumers for their inconvenience.

In the second procedure, a product recall is the result of action taken by the government. In the case of bean bag chairs, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a United States government agency, initiated recalls of several brands of bean bag chairs. One notable case involved the zippers used in the chair. The zipper was designed in a way that young children could unzip the bean bag chair, releasing the filling. As a result of the recall, the company made the necessary design changes to the zipper.

In order to make the point about how serious the problem was, the CPSC issued a series of guidelines that bean bag manufacturers can use to make sure that their products were in compliance. Bean bag chairs are more popular than ever and thanks to the efforts of manufacturers and government, bean bag chairs are safer too!

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