Following a report last week by the Philadelphia Inquirer that the death of a 22-month-old boy in February was caused by a falling Malm IKEA dresser, Consumer Reports, along with several consumer and child safety groups, is urging the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to secure a formal recall of the IKEA dresser responsible for the tragedy. This is the third confirmed tip-over death from a Malm IKEA dresser.

In a joint letter issued today to CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, along with Kids In Danger, the Consumer Federation of America, and the National Center for Health Research, urged the federal safety agency to take strong, immediate action to better protect children from the tip-over hazard of certain Malm IKEA dressers.     

Both IKEA and the CPSC were aware of the safety concerns with this particular furniture line prior to this latest incident. In July 2015, the commission and Sweden-based retailer announced two deaths from tipping IKEA dressers and launched a repair and education campaign for the products. But the warnings stopped short of a recall.

The announcement also didn’t inform consumers that Malm IKEA dressers fail to meet a voluntary safety standard agreed to by the furniture industry (ASTM F2057-14), which requires testing to ensure that each dresser drawer can withstand a 50-pound weight, while open, without the unit tipping over. 

While voluntary standards like this one can’t be enforced by the government—unlike mandatory federal safety standards—it is possible that tragedy may have been averted if the IKEA dressers involved in the latest incident complied with the industry standard.

The Malm Ikea dresser has been involved in 3 deaths.
The Malm dresser from IKEA.

"To learn that a tipping IKEA Malm dresser killed yet another child, when the company and the CPSC chose not to do a recall after the first two deaths, is beyond heartbreaking—it is unacceptable,” writes Consumer Reports, along with its fellow safety advocates. “We recommend a stop sale of the type of furniture that was involved in deaths and that does not meet the ASTM standard, as well as refunds for consumers who want them,” the group added. “For those who want to anchor the furniture, IKEA should develop a program to provide an incentive for consumers to anchor their furniture.”

While a particularly restrictive federal law limits the information that the agency can disclose, CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in response to the safety groups' letter, “I wholeheartedly agree that more needs to done, quickly, to protect innocent children from the hidden hazard of furniture tip-overs. Without commenting on any specific case, companies are on notice that even if there has been a public announcement about a remedy to address a dangerous product, the company must take every possible step to prevent further harm. This is especially the case when a child dies. Companies need to move fast and work with us on a comprehensive plan that offers their customers every necessary measure required for the sake of safety. I expect companies to truly put safety first, period.”

What You Can Do

Though today’s action focuses on IKEA, it’s important to understand that tip overs can happen with many types of furniture, as well as electronics. Indeed, unstable and unsecured televisions and large pieces of furniture kill a child every two weeks, on average, in tip-over incidents. To safeguard your home, especially if young children are present, follow these government recommendations:  

• Install anchoring devices to prevent TVs, dressers, bookcases, and other furniture from tipping over. The cost is minimal.

• Never leave remote controls, toys, and other tempting items in high places that kids might try to reach by climbing.

• Store heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers.

• Place TVs on a sturdy, low base and push them as far back from the front edge as possible, particularly if anchoring is not possible. An older tube TV falling from an average size dresser generates thousands of pounds of force.

Keeping Kids Safe From Furniture Tip-Overs

A danger might be lurking right in your home. On the 'Consumer 101' TV show, Consumer Reports' expert Peter Anzalone explains to show host Jack Rico what consumers need to know about furniture tip-overs.