Ikea has announced a voluntary recall of 29 million chests and drawers, after three children died in the past two years after dresser tip-over accidents.
The recall affects Malm dressers and chests of drawers with three or more drawers, as well as a number of other Ikea models.
The dressers and chests in question can be pulled over by a child if they aren't securely attached to a wall. When multiple drawers are opened, or if a child opens drawers and attempts to climb on them, even dressers that seem too heavy for a child to move can become vulnerable to tipping. (Seemingly stable televisions can pose a similar hazard.)
In 2014, two children, both around 2 years old, died in tip-over accidents involving Ikea's Malm dressers. The next year, the company launched a program offering free wall-mounting kits to consumers and encouraging them to attach dressers to the wall.
But in February, a third child, a 22-month-old boy in Minnesota, died after a Malm chest fell on top of him.
His family was renting their apartment, the Star Tribune reports, and were not allowed to put holes in their walls, as Ikea's wall-mounting kits require.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, or CPSC, notes that there have been other tip-over incidents as well, including three earlier deaths involving other models of Ikea furniture, and dozens of accidents that did not result in deaths.
Now, after the third death in two years, Ikea and the CPSC have announced that Malm — and other models of tall dressers — are now being recalled. Consumers can still ask for a free wall anchoring kit, but they can also opt for a refund for their furniture. Ikea is providing full refunds for dressers purchased after 2002, and partial store credit for older furniture.
"If you have or think you have one of these products, act immediately," CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said in a statement. "It is simply too dangerous to have the recalled furniture in your home unanchored, especially if you have young children."
"The products are not designed to be freestanding; they are designed to be attached to the wall," Ikea U.S. President Lars Petersson tells NPR. "We have taken this very, very strong step in order to communicate a way to attach to the wall, but also to make sure that this becomes a very strong culture for people, as strong as putting on your seat belt when you are driving a car."
Ikea will no longer sell the now-recalled dressers in their current design; it will sell only products that meet CPSC guidelines for stability, Petersson says.
But Petersson says even those dressers should, ideally, be anchored.
"Chests of drawers which are not attached to the wall are not completely safe ... the only completely safe thing is actually to have them attached to the wall," he says.
Safety standards that make dressers more stable are currently voluntary, but some lawmakers are pushing for legislation to make the standards mandatory, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The newspaper, which broke the news of the Ikea recall, has reported extensively on the hazard of tip-over accidents. You can find much more information on the accidents, and how to prevent them, in an investigative piece the Inquirer published in 2015.