IKEA is recalling about 27 million chest and dressers because they can tip over and crush children if they aren’t anchored to walls, the retailer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Wednesday.
Two children died after IKEA’s MALM chests fell on them in 2014. Since 1989, IKEA says it knows of reports of three additional deaths from tip-overs involving other models of IKEA chests and dressers.
While IKEA’s new repair program is considered a recall, consumers aren’t supposed to return the furniture. Instead, they should order or pick up a new free wall anchoring kit for the affected MALM chests and other IKEA chests and dressers.
Patty Lobell, IKEA’s U.S. commercial manager, said in a statement that the company is “deeply saddened” by the deaths and hopes “our efforts prevent further tragedies.”
Furniture and TV tip overs have been a top concern at CPSC for several years. A child dies every two weeks and one is injured every 24 minutes in the U.S. from furniture or TVs tipping over, according to CPSC data.
In an interview Wednesday, CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye called on the entire furniture industry to make more stable furniture – and for IKEA to lead the way considering their “big market share.”
“Today is a positive step and I commend IKEA for taking that step,” said Kaye. “But they need to do more and to make more stable furniture and they need to help lead industry.”
IKEA, which is based in Sweden, is known for its low-priced, low-frills furniture. In Sweden, Kaye says the company meets Europe’s more stringent voluntary safety standard, which states furniture units need to be anchored to walls.
CPSC did work with the U.S. standard-setting body in 2014 to update the furniture stability standard, but Kaye says it’s still “much fuzzier” than Europe’s.
It isn’t realistic to expect consumers with small children to anchor all large chests, in part because many can’t do it because they live in rental units or there are other issues with their walls, Kaye says. And “plenty of parents don’t know about the issue,” making it far more important for industry to make what could be very inexpensive design changes, he says.
IKEA spokeswoman Mona Liss said they company will “continue to collaborate with the CPSC to find solutions for more stable furniture.”
“We don’t know yet what those solutions will be but we are committed to working in collaboration to try to find better solutions,” she said.
The American Home Furnishings Alliance, which represents more than 200 large furniture manufacturers and importers, has been active in efforts to improve safety measures to reduce the number of furniture tip-over accidents, says spokeswoman Jackie Hirschhaut.
“The AHFA, through the work of its members, is engaged in exploring improved product safety methods through innovations in materials and technology,” she says.
One of the group’s staff members chairs the standard setting group’s furniture safety subcommittee.
CPSC is recommending that consumers immediately stop using all IKEA children’s chests and dressers taller than 23 ½ inches and adult chests and dressers taller than 29 ½ inches, unless they are securely anchored to the wall. IKEA’s free wall anchoring kit should be used to secure MALM and other IKEA chests and dressers to the wall.
About 7 million MALM chests and 20 million other IKEA chests and dressers are part of this nationwide repair program.
In February 2014, a 2-year-old boy from West Chester, Pa., died after a MALM 6-drawer chest tipped over and fatally pinned him against his bed. A nearly two-year-old child from Snohomish, Wash., died in June of last year after he became trapped beneath a three-drawer MALM chest that tipped over. Neither chest was secured to the wall.
IKEA and CPSC also have 14 reports of tip-over incidents involving MALM chests that led to four injuries. Since 1989, IKEA is aware of three other reports of deaths from tip-overs involving other IKEA chests and dressers.
The free repair kit is for MALM chests, IKEA children’s chests and dressers taller than 23 ½ inches, and IKEA adult chests and dressers taller than 29 ½ inches. The kit has replacement tip-over restraints and complete wall anchoring hardware, instructions and warning labels
.CPSC and IKEA are urging consumers to inspect their IKEA chests and dressers to make sure they are securely anchored to the wall. Consumers should move unanchored chests and dressers into storage or other areas where they cannot be accessed by children until the chests and dressers are properly anchored to the wall.
The MALM chests that are part of the repair program were sold starting in 2002. The price of the chests range from about $80 to $200.
To receive a free wall-anchoring kit, consumers can visit an IKEA store, register at www.IKEA-USA.com/saferhomestogether, or call toll-free (888) 966-4532.
IKEA’s Lobell said the retailer “is committed to helping raise the awareness of this serious home safety issue and to continue to provide consumers with the tools and knowledge they need to prevent these accidents.”