Why Are Fridge Doors So Hard to Open?

Have you ever wondered why all refrigerator doors are magnetic? Common sense would lead to a few potential answers. Maybe magnets are convenient for opening and closing the door? Maybe magnets are a cheap to implement locking mechanism? Maybe magnets refrigerators are easy to manufacture? Maybe magnets create the best seal and let the least cold air out?

It turns out the answer is quite a bit more strange. Most refrigerators used to have a latch and look something like this:

These latches created a superb seal and were very easy to use. However, there was one slight problem — hundreds of children died as a result of these latches.

You see, these latches did not open from the inside. Kids would find old, thrown out refrigerators and try to play with them and go inside of them. Once inside, however, they would find there was no way out.

You may think this was a niche problem, but it was actually quite prolific. So many kids died that various states started implementing policies to try and fix the problem. Oklahoma, for instance, passed a law making it a felony to leave a refrigerator with a latch in a location a child could find it. In other places, groups of people would band together and literally search their town for abandoned refrigerators so they could remove the latches.

However, ultimately, children continued to die in this way, and so in 1956 the US passed the Refrigerator Safety Act, mandating that all refrigerators sold in the US had to be able to be opened from the inside. As a result, refrigerator manufacturers adopted a magnetic locking system which was strong enough to create a seal, but weak enough to be pushed open from the inside.

Below is the act if you are interested:

https://www.cpsc.gov//Global/PDF/Statues/rsa.pdf

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