Ikea USA has just announced the biggest recall in the company's history. The company is offering full refunds or free anchoring repair kits for every single chest, dresser, or bureau the company has sold in America since 1985: a staggering 29 million units. The issue? Ikea dressers, which did not adhere to voluntary stability standards, can tip over and have even killed kids.
Speaking to Co.Design, president Lars Petersson says that after the third child in two years was crushed by a Malm dresser in February, Ikea felt it needed to do more. "A chest of drawers can be an irresistible temptation for children to use as a ladder," he says, and if it's not properly secured, tragedy can result. The company has distributed millions of free Secure It wall anchoring kits in the past year to help with the problem, but that solution wasn't adequate, Ikea says. By recalling all its chests and dressers, Ikea hopes to prevent further deaths, as well as raise awareness of how important it is to secure any furniture in your home that can tip over, Petersson says.
A 29 million-unit recall is an "unprecedented" step in Ikea's history, Petersson says, but insists that "this isn't just an Ikea issue, it's an industry issue." Under the wrong circumstances, any chest of drawers will tip over, especially if a kid is trying to climb on it. Injuries related to furniture tipping over have been responsible for about 38,000 people visiting emergency rooms each year, the New York Times reports.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates consumer goods in the U.S., has guidelines for designing chests that don't tip easily, but they're all voluntary, meaning it's up to manufacturers whether or not to follow them.
Petersson wouldn't comment on whether or not he felt those regulations should be mandatory, but he did say that going forward, all Ikea chests sold in the United States would conform to those regulations. That means design changes down the line, although Petersson wouldn't explain exactly what those changes might be. "We're working right now with the CPSC [the Consumer Product Safety Commission] to explore technical solutions which might be safer," he says.
But even if Ikea does succeed in designing a more stable, bottom-heavy chest of drawers, that's just a half-measure, Petersson argues. "The only truly safe way to have a chest of drawers in your house is to secure it to the wall," Petersson says. "We want to create a safety culture in the United States where everyone attaches a chest of drawers to the wall as a natural action when they buy one." What Petersson left unsaid was that materials and construction make a difference: a solid mahogany dresser built by a 19th-century woodworker probably isn't going to tip over when a kid climbs on it, while a cheap Malm made out of particleboard will topple over if you breathe on it wrong.
The recall only affects products sold in the United States, even though identical chests are sold throughout Europe and other territories. Asked if Ikea should recall those units as well, Petersson said that the company was "following mandatory standards and intensifying communication" in other parts of the world.
If you have an Ikea chest or dresser in your home, you can return it for a full refund, or apply for a free anchoring kit here.
Update: Ikea has just posted its official recall faq here.