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After reports of severe injuries and at least seven deaths, Ikea has recalled 29 million dressers and chests, products that can easily tip over and crush young children.
Parents accuse Ikea of selling dangerously defective furniture, including dressers that failed to meet the furniture industry’s voluntary safety standards.
In the wake of four child deaths, Ikea and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission have issued a massive recall of 29 million dressers and chests. The home furnishings, many of which belong to Ikea’s popular Malm line, fail to meet voluntary industry standards for stability and can easily tip-over, causing serious personal injuries or death. Toddlers are at the greatest risk, due to a rapid increase in motor coordination around the age of two.
Despite Ikea’s recent recall, the death toll from these dangerous dressers continues to rise. As of November 5, 2016, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had confirmed that at least seven children had been killed after being crushed by Ikea dressers. The products, according to the federal agency’s chairman Elliot Kaye, are “simply too dangerous.”
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Parents have begun to file lawsuits against Ikea, claiming that the company’s recalled dressers were defectively designed, creating an unreasonable risk of injury and death. In fact, the company has already settled one major lawsuit, filed by three families who lost children in fatal tip-over accidents.
On December 20, 2016, the world’s largest furniture manufacturer reached a $55 million settlement with the families of three children who were crushed under Ikea’s now-recalled Malm dresser, Reuters reports. Ikea has also agreed to donate $100,000 to Shane’s Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing tip-over accidents, along with $50,000 each to children’s hospitals located where the children lived.
As part of the settlement agreement, Ikea promised to sell only dressers and chests that meet or surpass the stability requirements outlined in ASTM F2057-14, the furniture industry’s widely-accepted standard for clothing storage units.
There was a time, however, when a full recall of the dangerous dressers and chests seemed unlikely. After injury and death reports began to emerge in 2014, Ikea first attempted to control the problem through customer outreach, a strategy that would ultimately prove futile.
Working in collaboration with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, the company began offering free wall anchor sets, allowing parents to secure their furniture to the wall using a bracket and nails. Ikea’s anchor program zeroed in on the company’s Malm series of dressers and chests, because these models had already been implicated in the deaths of two children. Today, the company’s “Secure It!” campaign offers two distinct anchoring kits, free of charge, noting in particular the company’s Stockholm, Busunge, Nordli and Stuva series chests and dressers.
By April of 2016, customers had already requested around 300,000 free anchoring kits for their Ikea furniture. The tragedies, though, did not end. As the Washington Post reported in June 2016, yet another mother made a heartbreaking discovery, finding her 22-month-old son trapped beneath a six-drawer Malm dresser. The child was crushed to death, only seven months after Ikea had begun its “Secure It!” campaign to raise public awareness of the danger. Interviewed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the grieving family’s attorney told reporters that his clients had been unaware of Ikea’s wall anchor program.
Beyond these three tragic deaths, representatives at Ikea told the Associated Press in February that the company was aware of at least 14 other tip-over reports involving Malm chests, 4 of which resulted in injury. Three additional deaths, beginning as early as 1989, had been attributed to other dresser models manufactured by the company.
Instead of recalling the products entirely, however, Ikea continued to stand behind the safety of its furniture “when assembled according to instructions.” Attorneys and public safety advocates took a different position. Speaking with the Philadelphia Inquirer, an attorney for several families who lost children in tip-over accidents argued forcefully that the burden of product safety should fall squarely on manufacturers, not be shifted onto consumers.
By May, even high-level government officials had raised concerns over Ikea’s handling of the problem. As Pamela Gilbert, the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s former director said, “it needs to be recalled […] and I think Ikea needs to spend a lot of money making sure everybody knows about it.” In Congress, Senator Robert Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, introduced legislation that would require dresser manufacturers to meet strict and mandatory stability standards. Elliot F. Kaye, chairman of the CPSC, threatened Ikea with legal action if the company did not consent to a full recall.
Kaye’s threat was soon heeded. On June 27, 2016, Lars Petersson, president of Ikea USA, publicly-confirmed that the company was recalling some 29 million dressers, nearly half of all the dressers manufactured by Ikea. 8 million of the recalled items belong to Ikea’s Malm line of chests and dressers, including models sold over 10 years ago:
|Model||Dates Of Sale||Measurements|
|MALM 3||10 / 2002 – 6 / 2016||31½” x 18⅞” x 30¾”|
|MALM 4||6 / 2002 – 6 / 2016||31½” x 18⅞” x 39½”|
|MALM 5||10 / 2002 – 4 / 2006||15⅞” x 19” x 48¼”|
|MALM 6||6 / 2002 – 6 / 2016||31½” x 18⅞” x 48⅜”|
|MALM 6||4 / 2006 – 6 / 2016||15¾” x 191⁄8” x 48⅜”|
|MALM 6 Long||11 / 2002 – 6 / 2016||63” x 18⅞” x 30¾”|
In addition to the company’s popular, low-cost Malm models, Ikea recalled another 178 chest and dresser models. The recall’s full details are available on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. The recall, which one federal official told the Philadelphia Inquirer was “unprecedented,” represented a sharp about-face for Ikea. Previously, the company had chosen to rely on consumers themselves to reduce the risks of its products, rather than redesigning the chests to meet the furniture industry’s voluntary safety standards or offering refunds.
The American Home Furnishing Alliance‘s set of furniture stability standards, last updated in 2014, are completely voluntary. Manufacturers have every right to disregard the standards, without fear of governmental sanction. While Ikea maintains that it is, and has always been, dedicated to creating furniture compliant with industry benchmarks, all of the recalled dressers and chests failed to meet the baseline safety guidelines. In part, the standards require that each piece of furniture pass two separate stability tests, one to ensure that the item does not tip after all drawers have been fully opened and another certifying that a 50-pound-weight, roughly equivalent to the weight of a small child, does not cause it to fall.
Submitted to independent tests by Kids In Danger and Shane’s Foundation, three of Ikea’s recalled dressers, the Koppang 3-Drawer Chest, Malm 4-Drawer Dresser and Malm 6-Drawer Dresser, failed to meet the American Home Furnishing Alliance’s test “intended to determine the stability of empty units should a child weighing 50 pounds use an open drawer of an empty chest or dresser for climbing.” Both of the Malm models also failed on the Alliance’s unweighted test.
With a full recall now in place, Ikea says that customers with recalled dressers will be able to receive a full refund, or can opt to secure the dresser using a free wall-anchoring repair kit. Unanchored dressers, the company says, should be moved to an area where children cannot access them. Moving forward, the company’s furniture, according to Ikea USA Chief Financial Officer Rob Olson, will be redesigned to match the furniture industry’s standards. Even so, Olson reiterated in an interview with Philly.com that “consumer awareness is more important than inherently stable design.”
In a 2014 analysis of federal accident data, investigators at the Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered that nearly 38,000 personal injuries requiring emergency room attention are caused every year by unstable furniture and appliance tip-overs.
Tragically, the majority of these accidents involve children under the age of 18. When furniture tip-overs prove fatal, the victims are almost invariably young children, between the ages of 1 month and 10 years old. In fact, of the 430 fatal incidents reported between 2000 and 2013, close to 84% led to the death of a young child.
On the heels of this shocking report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) invested $400,000 to a public education and outreach campaign, designed to prevent further injuries or deaths involving furniture and television tip-overs. Branded as “Anchor It!,” the newly-launched public campaign urges parents across the nation to anchor televisions, dressers, bureaus and kitchen appliances using anti-tip brackets, which are now included along with most furnishings sold in the United States.
Beyond anchoring tip-over hazards, the CPSC instructs families to remove tempting items from the tops of televisions and furniture. As the federal agency notes on its website, “children like to climb on furniture. For them, the home is a playground.” Eliminating tip-over accidents entirely will require a two-pronged approach, as parents stabilize their furniture using brackets and relocate items that may attract the attention of an exploring child.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 2014 Report: https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/pdfs/InstabilityorTipoverReport2014Stamped.pdf
Kids in Danger Furniture Stability Testing Results: http://www.kidsindanger.org/wp-content/uploads/Furniture_Stability_Report_Final_(1).pdf
U.S. consumer Product Safety Commission Press Release 2016: https://www.cpsc.gov/about-cpsc/chairman/elliot-f-kaye/statements/press-statement-from-us-consumer-product-safety