Another toddler has died after being crushed by a tipped over Ikea “Malm” dresser. The design has been found to be unstable and has killed at least seven other toddlers.
The victims this time are two-year-old Jozef Dudek and his family. An attorney representing the Dudeks in their lawsuit against Ikea says that Jozef’s untimely death was “completely avoidable” and that Ikea’s recall has been “poorly publicized and completely ineffective.”
Ikea insists it has gone to “great lengths to get the word out” on its recall. The company’s efforts have included a national advertising campaign, emails to consumers, and materials posted in stores. The Dudek family claims to have never come across this information.
Ikea has been aware of issues with the Malm for years. Its initial strategy was to offer customers free anchor support systems for each unit. The anchors require making small holes in the wall behind the dresser to stabilize it. In at least one instance of a toddler death caused by the Malm, a family claimed that it was unable to anchor the dresser because their rental agreement precluded them from making any holes in their walls.
In a joint statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Federation of America noted that Ikea’s “communication efforts focused on anchoring a deadly dresser to the wall are not enough on their own. Anchoring devices are meant as a second layer of protection for stable dressers — not as a replacement for making stable dressers in the first place.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the most recent number of Malm dressers returned or repaired is 882,500, or just three percent of those recalled. Ikea has been reluctant to confirm any such number because of the time period covered by the recall, going so far to say it would be impossible to really know how many have faulty units have been accounted for.
Given the history of the Malm issue, it’s difficult to credit Ikea with having done everything it could to prevent the crushing deaths of toddlers as the result of Malm tipovers. The first two deaths warranted only the idea of anchoring the dressers to the wall. It wasn’t until after the third death that the company eventually recalled the Malm and offered partial or full refunds.
Safety standards for dressers are currently voluntary. A bill was proposed in the Senate in June of 2016 to make them mandatory, but the legislation was unsuccessful. Until either Ikea or the government acts to ensure the safety of common household furniture, millions of children may be at risk of premature death from the furniture in their own homes.