IKEA dressers that killed 8 children were not effectively recalled, say critics

IKEA again announces a recall on the Malm dresser, now responsible for killing eight children. (Photo: Getty Images)
IKEA again announces a recall on the Malm dresser, now responsible for killing eight children. (Photo: Getty Images)

IKEA has been making headlines for again announcing a recall, in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, that was initiated back in June 2016. It comes in the wake of an eighth child killed by one of its toppled dressers.

The Malm dresser, which has been targeted in past safety warnings, is at fault for the latest death of a California toddler. Parents of 2-year-old Jozef Dudek found the boy trapped under the faulty piece of furniture, and have been outspoken about the retailer’s past “lame, ineffective recall” the first time around.

According to IKEA CEO Lars Petersson, the aim of the latest announcement is to heighten awareness of the initial recall. But with the death count caused by the company’s product now up to eight, parents are inevitably wondering what went wrong with IKEA’s first call to action and what they can do to keep their children safe.

Anthony Green from Safe Kids Worldwide, in speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle about these concerns, says that the most important aspect to keeping kids safe is transparency.

“In this case, it’s fair to say that the manufacturer really needs to be very aggressive in getting out the information about the product and alerting families to make sure if they have one of these dressers, or a similar kind, to make sure that it hasn’t been recalled,” he shares, referring to a process that his organization is involved in.

Working with both the manufacturers and consumers of children’s products, Green explains, Safe Kids acts as a middleman in receiving information about threats of injury and communicating it to families. Through an email subscription service, the organization provides parents with a biweekly email announcing the latest recalls in children’s products. But the information cannot be effectively communicated with families unless manufacturers are upfront about the issues themselves.

“First and foremost, it’s on the manufacturer to come out very transparently and clearly about the problem with their product,” Green says. “In this case, IKEA has been pretty slow.”

Although IKEA is emphasizing its prior recall in this latest outreach, critics say the company hadn’t done enough in the past to get the word out about faulty items, such as the Malm dresser. While the first death by an IKEA dresser occurred 28 years ago, the other incidents have all taken place since 2002. But the first statement regarding the safety of the item wasn’t issued until 2015.

In a statement released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on July 22, 2015, the governmental organization simply announced an offering by IKEA of free wall anchoring repair kits. Within the body of the statement, CPSC includes a warning to “immediately stop using all IKEA children’s chests and dressers taller than 23½ inches and adult chests and dressers taller than 29½ inches, unless they are securely anchored to the wall.” However, the actual term “recall” was never used prior to 2016, and it’s likely due to recall negotiations between CPSC and IKEA.

According to the Recall Handbook issued by the CPSC in March 2002, responsibility is in the hands of both the government institution and the manufacturer at fault to negotiate a recall program. And while the CPSC calls for companies to report safety risks as quickly as possible, it’s not the way it always happens.

“No company likes to recall one of its products,” the handbook states, “but when a safety problem makes a product recall necessary to prevent injuries and save lives, it benefits everyone to move quickly and effectively.”

In a statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle by IKEA U.S., the company notes that while they’ve done extensive work to efficiently spread the word regarding the risk of injury with the product, there is more to be done.

“IKEA U.S., together with the CPSC, is re-announcing last year’s chest of drawer recall in order to ask anyone with an IKEA chest of drawers that is not safely secured to the wall to take immediate action. The most recent incident has indicated to us that there is more work to be done in spreading the message. IKEA and the CPSC want every consumer who has a recalled dresser to hear the message and participate in one of the solutions we are offering,” the statement reads. “In the last two years, we have done extensive outreach to consumers to communicate the recall including television ads, social, digital and print advertising, and emails to more than 13 million consumers — which in turn has resulted in IKEA providing service or refunding more than one million dressers. However, there is still more work to be done, which is why we are re-announcing the recall.”

Consumers should visit IKEA.com/US for more information on the recall and a full list of recalled dressers. In the case of parents still uncertain about their furniture, however, Green assures that common sense can get you pretty far.

“Go into your kid’s bedroom and see what kind of dresser you have,” he says. “If you have a dresser that’s been recalled, then do something about it — whether it’s remove it or secure it with a strap you can get from IKEA. And a lot of this is common sense, which parents have a really good set of antennae about that. It’s also keep aware of the news and being aware in general.”

For parents of any kind, Green admits that being super-aware is a difficult task. But knowing your resources is the first step.

Click here to sign up for Children’s Product Recall Alerts.

Click here to follow Safe Kids Advocacy on Twitter for up-to-date alerts and information.

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