Update: In July 2016, more than two months after the third Ikea dresser-related child fatality, the brand issued an official recall of more than 29 million units. Now, after the eighth child has died from being crushed beneath its dressers, the retailer is relaunching the same recall. According to the company's website, the voluntary recall gives owners of any of the six dressers in the Malm collection the opportunity to either receive a free wall-anchoring kit – which has long been Ikea's recommended solution – or to receive a full or partial refund "if you are unable or unwilling to attach your chest or dresser to the wall." Up until recently, only the first option has been made available to consumers. They have still not announced any plans to stop selling the Malm or modify its construction to prevent tip-overs.
Original: When products are recalled because of the sheer possibility that they could cause harm, it should come as a shock that there's currently a very popular product on the market that has caused the death of not one, not two, but three children. What's more surprising is that it's a piece of furniture you might very well own — Ikea's Malm dresser.
It was just released that a 22-month-old Minnesota boy, Ted McGee, died in February when he tipped one of the Ikea chests on top of himself in his room while his parents thought he was napping. This news comes after two similar incidents in 2014 — in which a 2-year-old Pennsylvania boy and a 23-month-old boy from Washington were both fatally pinned under the same brand of Ikea dressers.
In July 2015, in response to the 2014 deaths, Ikea issued a recall of sorts for nearly 27 million units. Instead of urging customers to return their Malm chests, Ikea offered free wall-anchoring repair kits to prevent any further hazard to children.
Following McGee's death, the global furniture retailer released the following statement:
At IKEA, we believe children are the most important people in the world and the safety of our products is our highest priority. Upon being informed of this incident, IKEA immediately reported it to the authorities and an investigation is taking place. IKEA has been advised that the product was not attached to the wall, which is an integral part of the products' assembly instructions.
To conclude its statement, Ikea simply reiterated the safety guidelines — to "attach products to the wall with the included restraints and hardware per the assembly instructions" — put in place the previous year.
This shouldn't be enough. When an Ikea bat cape can be recalled because a fabric fastener could potentially cause the risk of strangulation, why isn't a sizable piece of furniture that can and has caused three separate child deaths still being manufactured and sold as is?
As Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said in July, "if you cannot anchor this, do not use it." Clear and simple advice, but it's clearly not a message all parents are receiving. Because of that disconnect, shouldn't Ikea work to find a way to create this dresser in a way that won't tip over? That doesn't require a special add-on accessory to ensure safety? Is that not worth the research and development, or will that make the cost of the dresser prohibitively expensive?
Certainly that's the issue at play here. But as much as consumers love the low prices of Ikea furniture, there's a far greater price to pay. And the McGee family likely won't be the last to pay it.