After years of problems with certain models of dressers and chests, IKEA voluntarily recalls 29M dressers due to children’s death. To date, at least six children, all less than 4 years of age, have been crushed to death by IKEA dressers that weren’t anchored to the wall.
Elliot Kaye, chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said, “Enough is enough. These are inherently very dangerous and unstable products if children are around them.”
Apparently, IKEA agreed, though only to a certain extent, and issued the voluntary recall. This massive recall affects children’s dressers and chests over 23.5” in height and adult units over 29.5” tall. U.S. and Canadian customers have the following options:
- A free repair kit that will anchor the units to the wall. IKEA will install the anchors for customers who can’t or don’t want to do it themselves;
- A full refund for units made between 2002 and 2016;
- A partial refund in the form of a store credit for units made prior to 2002.
The deaths go back as far as 1989, with the most recent being reported this past February, according to the CPSC. The CPSC has also received a total of 36 reports of non-fatal injuries caused by the affected units. The MALM model dresser was the cause of three of the six reported deaths; the other three were caused by different IKEA units.
The most recent fatality involved a two-year-old boy in Pennsylvania. His mother, Jaquelyn Collas, found him trapped between an IKEA MALM dresser and his bed. She told an ABC News reporter, “I couldn’t tell if there was a heartbeat, you know I was so afraid. I didn’t know to anchor my furniture and, in my mind, I feel that we really shouldn’t have to. Get rid of it, it’s dangerous, it’s a really dangerous product.”
Ms. Collas sued the retailer in May 2015. Her complaint alleges that IKEA failed to properly warn customers of the dangers of the “front-heavy” units.
Mr. Kaye agreed with Ms. Collas’ concerns. “You turn your back for a second and that furniture goes over and it can be deadly. If it is not anchored, it’s not safe.”
IKEA’s response to Ms. Collas’ suit was, “Defendants expressly deny any alleged negligence and carelessness, failure with regard to inadequate warnings or instructions, and the allegation that the dresser was improperly designed, improperly manufactured, defective, unreasonably dangerous or unsafe.”
In regards to the voluntary recall, the retailer made the following statement:
“A child in the US dies every two weeks from furniture, appliances, or TVs tipping over.” The statement explained that IKEA started a program in 2015 “to communicate the importance of wall attachment, which resulted in the distribution of 300,000 kits to consumers who had not used their original hardware.”
The statement continued, “Since then, we have been in close contact with the CPSC to evaluate the success of the repair program and the impact it is having on consumers’ actions. We are announcing this recall today given the recent tragic death of a third child. It is clear that there are still unsecured products in customers’ homes, and we believe that taking further action is the right thing to do. We will continue to work collaboratively with the CPSC on tip-over prevention, development of the ASTM standard, and innovations that will enhance product safety and further reduce the risk of tip-overs.”
The statement referred only to those children killed by the MALM dressers.
Pardon my cynicism, but the last death was in February and it is now the end of June. Four months have passed since the last child died. If IKEA is so concerned about the safety of its products, why did it wait four months to issue the recall? Could it be that Ms. Collas might prevail in her suit? Or, is it because the CPSC chair, Mr. Kaye, is finally fed up? We may never know.
Despite the recall, the retailer insists it has done no wrong, that anchoring kits were included with all dressers sold. This puts the focus back on the customer as to why the customers didn’t use the anchoring kits.
I would never suggest that the parents of the deceased children were to blame for their children’s deaths, especially given the often cryptic nature of IKEA’s assembly instructions. Additionally, wall anchors tend to leave sizable holes and apartment dwellers may not always be able to use the kits. Unless it was made clear before the purchase that the units must be anchored to the wall in order to be safe, I believe the responsibility lies with IKEA.
I would echo the warning put forth by IKEA and the CPSC. If you have one of these units and it is unanchored, please move it to a location where it cannot be reached by children.