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After historic Ikea dresser recall, another child has died

Tricia L. Nadolny, Staff Writer

Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 12:13 PM

Jozef Dudek, a 2-year-old boy from Buena Park, Calif., died in May when a three-drawer Malm dresser in his bedroom fell on him after he was put down for an afternoon nap, according to a lawyer for the family.

Another child has died beneath a tipped IKEA dresser.

Jozef Dudek, 2, was crushed by a Malm dresser in his California bedroom in May after being put down for a nap, according to a lawyer for the boy’s parents. Ikea and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday both confirmed being aware of the death, and a spokesman for the safety agency said it had opened an investigation.

Jozef is the eighth child known to have died when an unsecured Ikea dresser toppled forward and the first confirmed death since last year’s historic recall of 29 million of the company’s bureaus.

His death has revived concerns from safety advocates about the effectiveness of the recall, which has resulted in only a small fraction of the dressers being repaired or destroyed, and whether Ikea should be doing more to raise awareness with consumers.

Jozef’s parents did not know the dresser had been recalled, according to their attorney, Daniel Mann of Philadelphia’s Feldman Shepherd law firm.

“Jozef’s tragic death was completely avoidable,” said Mann, who has represented the parents of three other children who died in tip-overs of dressers from the popular line. “What makes this death more heartbreaking is the fact that last year’s so-called recall was poorly publicized by Ikea and ineffective in getting these defective and unstable dressers out of children’s bedrooms across the country.”

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Ikea on Wednesday said the dresser had not been attached to the wall and encouraged consumers to use anchors included with its products.

“Our hearts go out to the affected family, and we offer our sincere condolences during this most difficult time,” spokeswoman Mona Astra Liss said.

Last year’s recall was among the largest in the safety agency’s history, involving not just dressers from Ikea’s Malm line, which at the time had been linked to at least four deaths, but dozens of other models sold by the retailer over decades. The company agreed to give full refunds in most cases.

It also redesigned many of its dressers to meet the industry’s safety standard, which requires dressers to remain upright without being anchored when a 50-pound weight is hung on a drawer.

The recall came after years of negotiations with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2015, Ikea agreed to address the hazard with a program that included sending new anchoring kits to consumers. Negotiations with safety regulators restarted when a 2-year-old boy from Apple Valley, Minn., died beneath an Ikea dresser, the third death in two years. His parents said they had not heard of the dangers posed by the dressers.

The most recent death was reported to police about 5:30 p.m. on May 24 in Buena Park, Calif. Mann said Jozef’s father found the child trapped beneath the three-drawer Malm dresser.

Mann has declined to provide further details about the incident, saying the parents are trying to “privately grieve the passing of their lovely and only son.” He said the parents plan to sue Ikea, which has its North American headquarters in Conshohocken.

Ikea in December agreed to pay $50 million to settle suits filed by the parents of three children killed in Malm tip-overs in 2014 and 2015, including 2-year-old Curren Collas of West Chester.

Upon learning of the most recent death, eight consumer and health organizations on Wednesday issued a joint statement calling on Ikea and the safety commission to increase efforts to raise awareness of the recall. The groups called Ikea’s efforts to date “lackluster.”

Members of several of the organizations have stressed that Ikea needs to specifically tell consumers about the recall rather than focusing on its “Secure It!” campaign, which encourages general anchoring practices.

William Wallace of Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports, said Ikea should promote the dangers posed by its dressers with the same vigor it put “into marketing the product in the first place.”

Benjamin Hoffman, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Protection, said that effort needs to include making the recall as easy to access as possible.

“If the recall had been truly successful nobody would be hurt any longer,” he said. “And the fact that a child in California is dead, it’s inexcusable.”

After years of pushing for more action by Ikea and federal safety regulators, Rachel Weintraub, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America, gasped when she heard from a reporter about the new death.

“Oh my god,” she said. “This is horrific and tragic news and really exactly what we never want to hear again.”

Astra Liss, the Ikea spokeswoman, said the company has continued sharing information about the recall on its website and through social media and email campaigns while focusing on its wider public awareness campaign. She encouraged consumers to take part in the recall, either by ordering a free wall anchoring kit from Ikea or returning the product for a refund.

As part of the recall, Ikea will send a crew to consumers’ homes to either anchor dressers or collect them.

It is unclear how many of the 29 million dressers have been either repaired, returned or destroyed. Ikea on Wednesday declined to say how many have been addressed through the recall.

The company must file monthly progress reports to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the one filed for the period ending Jan. 1 showed that about 882,500 dressers had been addressed through the recall and earlier repair program. That is about 3 percent of those recalled.

The Inquirer has filed an open-records request with the safety agency for more recent reports, but the response numbers have been redacted on those provided.

Tricia L. Nadolny, Staff Writer

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