Ikea Recalls and How to Avoid Fatal Furniture Failures

After the confirmed deaths of three children – all of them boys around two years old – Ikea has recalled more than 29 million dressers that have been deemed unsafe due to the risk of tipping over.

The recall was preceded by attempts to make the dressers safer, including a joint campaign last year between Ikea and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to offer free wall anchors designed to help keep the dressers upright. However, despite the 29 million dressers included in the program, only about 300,000 people had requested their free anchor kit as of this past April, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As the largest furniture retailer in the world, Ikea is certainly no stranger to recalling products that pose potential dangers to children. Just this past March, it recalled three versions of its Gothem lamps that were causing electric shocks that could lead to personal injury or even start a fire. Last September, the company recalled its Vyssa Spelevink crib mattresses because they did not meet CPSC flammability standards.

This latest recall is one of the largest in the company’s history, however. Jaquelyn Collas, the mother of one of the toddlers who died when an Ikea dresser fell on top of him, is suing the company because it failed to adequately warn purchasers of the danger. The deaths of three children, she believes, shows that something more than a small-print label warning and an offer of a free, self-installed anchor kit needs to be done.

“I didn’t know to anchor my furniture,” Collas said to ABC News, expressing her anger at the lack of instruction, “and in my mind, I feel that we really shouldn’t have to.”

Preventing Furniture Tragedies

In a perfect world, products would be made safe, and they would come with clear, easy-to-understand warnings about their potential dangers – or not be sold at all. Stories like this one serve to remind us that it is not always sufficient to rely solely on manufacturer labels for safety.

According to recent reports, approximately 38,000 emergency room visits are caused by tip-overs each year. While only a small fraction of these result in deaths, that number may be rising, from 7 in 2000 to 49 in 2011 (the last year for which data is available). The sad thing is that all of these injuries and deaths are preventable with a little bit of attentiveness and preparation.

Here are some ways that you can prevent tragedies like the ones caused by the Ikea dresser tip-overs:

Look for Recalls

First, do a search to see if the product you are buying might be recalled, especially if you are purchasing it online or from a secondary seller (e.g., thrift store, flea market, yard sale, etc.). ConsumerSafety.org makes searching for recalls easy.

Read Product Reviews

Even if there is no recall, make sure to read product reviews written by other buyers before purchasing a piece of furniture (or any other product). You may learn of potential dangers or design flaws identified by others that have not yet been reported to the CPSC or another regulating agency.

Submit Warranty/Registration Information

When you purchase furniture, be sure to complete the warranty or registration form, either online or by submitting the card included with the product by mail. In the event of a recall or some other safety event, the company will often notify individuals who have registered their product before full public announcements.

Anchor Furniture

Anchoring furniture to the wall can help prevent tip-overs like those that led to this Ikea recall. It’s especially a good idea to anchor furniture anywhere that young, mobile children will be likely to frequent, including dressers, changing tables, armoires, bookcases, etc. Also be sure to anchor heavy electronics like flat-screen TVs. Most furniture items do not include anchor kits, so you may need to buy one separately from a hardware store.

Store Desired Items Out of Site

Often, children may be tempted to climb on furniture to reach something they want, such as a favorite toy or a snack. Keeping these items out of reach is not enough, as children may still try to get to them; instead, keep them out of sight to help them stay out of mind and become less of a temptation.

Always Supervise Children

Keeping an eye on children, especially toddlers who are very active, is the best way to predict and prevent accidents. Also, when you catch them trying to climb on furniture, teach them about the danger of

For additional safety tips and a checklist on how to prevent furniture-related accidents with children, see our Children at Home Safety Guide.