Ikea Recalls Kullen Dressers Linked to Dangerous Tip-Overs
The three-drawer dresser is the first one recalled for failing the furniture industry's updated stability standard
Ikea has recalled the nearly 1 million Kullen three-drawer dressers that have been sold in the U.S. and Canada. There have been tip-overs involving the dressers and they pose a hazard that may result in death or serious injuries, according to an announcement today from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The dresser model has been involved in six reported tip-overs, the alert stated, and does not comply with the furniture industry’s voluntary stability standard, which was updated in August to include shorter dressers that measure 27 inches and taller.
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dressers and place them in a room children can’t access.
The three-drawer Kullen dresser is 28⅜ inches tall and weighs about 45 pounds. It comes in a black-brown (shown at top) or birch finish. “KULLEN” is printed on the underside of the dresser’s top panel or inside the side panel. It was sold at Ikea from April 2005 to December 2019 for about $60.
Why Dresser Recalls Matter
One person is injured about every 20 minutes—and one child dies about every two weeks—when a piece of furniture, an appliance, or a television falls onto them, according to the CPSC. Each year, thousands of those incidents involve dressers. Dresser tip-overs alone have killed at least 212 people since 2000, mostly children 6 and younger.
But there is currently no mandatory government standard requiring furniture manufacturers to test their products and prove they are stable and safe before putting them on the market.
Instead, there is a voluntary industry standard. It states that a dresser 27 inches or taller should stay upright when a 50-pound weight is hung on a single open drawer while the others are closed. The voluntary standard previously applied only to dressers taller than 30 inches but was revised in August 2019 to include dressers as short as 27 inches, after pressure from CR and other consumer safety groups.
In fact, until 2016, Ikea sold millions of dressers that did not comply with the voluntary standard despite the fact that they were linked to numerous tip-over incidents. It was only after Ikea dresser models were tied to several children’s deaths that the company issued a recall in June 2016. The recall eventually involved 17.3 million dressers.
Today’s recall comes after the CPSC tested more than 150 models of dressers, chests, and other clothing storage units to see whether they complied with the industry’s voluntary stability standard, with the aim of getting unsafe dressers off the market. The CPSC confirmed to CR that the Kullen three-drawer dresser did not pass those tests.
Brett Horn, whose 2-year-old son Charlie died in 2007 after a 30-inch dresser fell on him, says he is pleased that shorter dressers are being recalled. “The dresser that killed my son was not covered by the previous voluntary standard because it was considered too short to be a tip-over hazard,” says Horn, who is a member of Parents Against Tip-Overs (PAT), a consumer advocacy group made up of parents whose children have died in a tip-over incident. “So I consider it a victory that smaller unstable dressers are being pulled from the market.”
The Need for Mandatory Rules
Horn notes, however, that the fight for safer dressers is not over. “One of the biggest issues remaining is that the voluntary standard testing does not reflect real-life scenarios,” says Horn, who is a newly elected member of an executive committee for ASTM International, an organization that helps develop voluntary standards for dressers and thousands of other products.
“Dressers should be tested with at least 60 pounds of weight rather than 50 to more accurately reflect the weight of children who are vulnerable to tip-overs,” Horn says. “And the tests should be done with drawers filled with clothes, when multiple drawers are open at the same time, and even when the dresser is placed on carpeting because we know that’s how people and children use dressers.”
Horn’s fellow PAT members and advocates from several other consumer safety groups, including CR, agree that the dresser stability standard should be not only tougher but also mandatory.
Legislation already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and now in the Senate, called the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act, would require the CPSC to create a more robust and mandatory federal rule.
“Congress needs to pass the STURDY Act so the CPSC can act quickly to set strong rules to protect children from tip-over incidents,” says Oriene Shin, CR’s policy counsel for home and product safety. “We need safety standards that don’t take 10 years to finalize, putting more children at risk of injury or death in the meantime.”
Parents whose children have died in tip-over incidents agree. “We absolutely need a stronger mandatory standard like the one STURDY would provide,” says Meghan DeLong, a PAT member whose 2-year-old son Conner died in 2017 after an Ikea Hemnes eight-drawer dresser tipped over onto him, according to public documents filed in a lawsuit against Ikea. “The dresser that killed Conner met the voluntary standard and has not been recalled, which shows the standard needs to be stronger.”
The Hemnes eight-drawer dresser was involved in a separate incident in late 2018 that became public after a video surfaced of 2-year-old twin brothers in Utah climbing on the dresser, which then toppled over and pinned one of the boys underneath it. His brother was able to nudge the heavy piece of furniture off his sibling, who was unharmed.
Ikea has told CR that because the Hemnes eight-drawer dresser complies with the voluntary standard, it doesn’t need to be recalled.
DeLong, who declined to disclose the specific dresser involved in her son’s death because of the terms of her legal settlement, says she hopes Ikea will do everything it can to publicize the latest recall.
“Ikea should use the same amount of resources to advertise this recall as they used to sell the product—alerting people through social media, Ikea member accounts, using any way they can to track down people who bought this dresser,” DeLong says.
If the recall is not publicized widely, she says, the dresser could still hurt people. Joleen and Craig Dudek know this from experience. Their 2-year-old son Jozef died in May 2017 after a three-drawer Ikea Malm dresser tipped over onto him a full year after the dresser had been recalled.
“Like so many others, the Dudeks were unaware of the recall or the dangerous unstable nature of the dresser,” Alan Feldman, the couple’s lawyer, said after the family settled with Ikea for $46 million in January 2020. The Dudeks had been members of the Ikea Family loyalty program when they purchased the dresser in 2008, and Ikea had their contact information and purchase history on file. Yet the couple never received a letter or an email alerting them to the dresser recall.
As part of the settlement, Ikea also agreed to expand its outreach efforts so that more people who own unstable recalled dressers know to get them out of their homes. Lawyers for the Dudeks said they hoped these efforts would include Ikea emailing every customer in the company database and engaging in prominent social media campaigns.
(The Dudeks plan to donate $1 million of the settlement to be split among CR and two other consumer groups—Kids In Danger and the Consumer Federation of America—to continue ongoing efforts to prevent deaths and injuries from furniture tip-overs.)
DeLong, for one, is watching to see how Ikea proceeds with this recall announcement. “This particular Kullen three-drawer dresser has been in production for 14 years, so there are a lot of people out there using it who may have no idea it could be deadly to their children.”
To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go to SaferProducts.gov.