Health

Parents, not IKEA, are at fault for MALM dresser deaths

Parents of small children: if you don’t have all your tall, narrow furniture and electronics anchored properly, it’s not the furniture maker’s fault if your child is injured – it’s yours.

IKEA’s MALM dressers have been blamed for the accidental deaths of at least eight small children. In each case, the child pulled out one or more drawers, started to climb the dresser, and the dresser tipped over, trapping and crushing the child. As a result, IKEA sent wall anchors to owners of MALM dressers with instructions on how to anchor their dressers to the wall (my wife and I own several MALM items, including two dressers, and we received those anchors in the mail). After more children died, IKEA recalled the dressers, even offering to come to your home and pick them up and haul them off to be destroyed.

To date, IKEA has done everything right, yet they continue to be raked over the coals by safety groups demanding that IKEA do something – anything – more about the MALM dressers. But the problem isn’t the MALM dresser.

The problem is grieving parents who are desperately seeking a scapegoat onto whom they can pass their own guilt. The problem is that the parents failed to properly child-proof home, and they want to blame someone else for their own failure to protect their child.

Every single tall, narrow piece of furniture is prone to tipping over. Every. Single. One. It’s basic physics – the taller and narrower something is, the more prone to tipping over it is. Ever try to keep a pencil standing up on a desk? One light tap on the edge of the desk sends it toppling. Bookcases, cabinets, china and desk hutches, large screen TVs, and dressers are all prone to tipping simply because they’re tall and narrow.

Dressers are worse than most, however, because they are loaded with heavy drawers that slide out and away from the body of the dresser. Open too many drawers, and any dresser will tip over – taller dressers are simply more prone than shorter ones. Filing cabinet used to do this too, so engineers added drawer locks that keep you from opening more than one drawer at a time. Dishwashers that aren’t anchored properly into the cabinets do it too when you’ve got both shelves out and loaded with dishes. Pull out a dresser drawer or two and add the weight of a child trying to climb the drawers to get to a toy or to the jewelry box and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Child-proofing straps for furniture (Image credit: Amazon.com)

But this is true of nearly all dressers. Children are tragically crushed under dressers somewhat regularly, and while there are some technologies that can reduce the risk of tipping (such as drawer locks that keep more than one drawer from being opened at a time) there is only one method that can entirely eliminate the risk – properly anchoring the dresser to the wall, at one or more wall studs, with child-proofing straps like those pictured. Wall anchors are sold at hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot, kids stores like BabiesRUs, Amazon.com, and even some furniture stores.

IKEA is not being targeted because the MALM is a dangerous product. They’re being targeted is because they’re successful. MALM dressers are decent quality and relatively inexpensive, and that combination of means that IKEA has sold a lot of them – 29 million dressers were recalled originally. And the large number of MALM dressers means that there are many more opportunities for tragedy to strike. It’s no different than the fact that more people get into car accidents in Toyotas than get into accidents in Ferraris – there are a lot more Toyotas on the road than there are Ferraris.

It’s a tragedy whenever a child dies, and even more so when the death is preventable. But the responsibility for a death due to a tipping dresser lies with the child’s parents, not with the dresser’s manufacturer.

Categories: Health

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2 replies »

  1. Bought our Malm dressers about 10 years ago. They came each with a strap and instructions on how to anchor them to the wall. Ikea didn’t supply the screws but in the instructions recommended to ask at the hardware store for advice as to what type of screws to use, dependent on the particular wall type.

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