Nicole Oka had heard about Ikea furniture tipping onto and crushing small children, a hazard that has killed at least 10 kids. So when the California mother and her husband picked out a tall Ikea bookcase for their twins’ bedroom in 2017, the parents used the included hardware to anchor it to the wall, as the instructions suggested.
“I remember being so afraid of this happening,” Oka said. “It felt like a very real thing that could happen to me.”
Then, it did.
In a harrowing incident captured on a baby camera earlier this month, Oka’s 2-year-old twins climbed on the bookcase in their bedroom after being put to bed, sending the unit crashing forward. It tipped, despite being secured, when one of the anchoring brackets detached from the particleboard unit. The video strikes at the heart of a longstanding dispute between the retailer and safety advocates over whether Ikea’s ready-to-assemble furniture is safe when attached to the wall.
“My babies could have died,” Oka said. “I did everything right. I did everything I should have.”
Ikea spokeswoman Hanna Bengtsander, in a statement, said the company was aware of the incident and grateful the children were not injured.
“We are currently reviewing the video involving the BRIMNES bookcase and need more time to get a better understanding of the details,” she said. “We cannot provide any additional comment at this time.”
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating the incident, according to an agency spokeswoman.
The video offers a rare view of a tip-over, a latent home hazard that federal safety regulators say has killed at least 459 children since 2000 but that is not often witnessed by parents. In other cases where tip-overs have been caught on nanny cameras — including another in which twins tipped an Ikea dresser in 2017 — parents said they had not anchored the furniture and were sharing the videos to raise awareness.
While virtually all dressers can tip, Ikea’s have proven to be particularly dangerous, causing five deaths since 2014. The company recalled 17.3 million dressers in 2016 and at the time acknowledged most of its bureaus did not meet the furniture industry’s stability test, which is meant to ensure that a dresser remains upright when pulled on by children. Last year, the company for 16 weeks sold another dresser that did not meet the voluntary stability standard. That dresser was recalled in March.
The Brimnes bookcase that tipped onto the Oka twins is part of a line that includes three dressers that were included in the 2016 recall. The tall, slim unit has two drawers at the bottom and four shelves.
Ikea has long stressed the importance of anchoring furniture and has told consumers who own recalled Ikea dressers that they are safe as long as they are properly attached to the wall. Safety advocates argue the recalled dressers should be returned and destroyed.
Nancy Cowles, the executive director of the product safety nonprofit Kids in Danger, said she knows of other cases in which anchored Ikea furniture tipped. The video of the recent California tip-over renewed her concerns about the safety of Ikea’s products including the recalled dressers, millions of which remain in U.S. homes, she said.
“It shows that anchoring is not the failsafe it’s been sold as,” she said. “If the dresser is unstable, that’s not necessarily going to be enough.”
Ikea declined to say how many reports it has received of anchored Ikea furniture tipping. USA TODAY found seven examples in incident investigation files obtained from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In three of the cases, the mounting hardware held to the wall but separated from the dresser.
In one, a California building contractor in 2007 used a stud finder to locate the wooden boards behind the drywall in his son’s bedroom, then screwed a nylon strap provided by Ikea into the dresser and the stud, according to the federal safety regulator’s file. The unit tipped two years later when his then 7-year-old son pulled out two drawers at the same time.
“The complainant examined the wall and observed the screw holding the nylon strap had pulled out of the pressed wood in the back of the dresser,” the investigator wrote. “The screw and nylon strap were still in the wall.”
Asked about the cases, Ikea said it was not aware of any incidents that involved properly anchored units tipping and causing serious injury.
Oka said her husband followed the anchoring instructions for their bookcase closely and used the two L-shaped brackets provided by Ikea. The company includes screws to attach the brackets to the unit and instructs consumers to select their own wall fasteners. Oka said her husband screwed one bracket into a wall stud and the other, which did not align with a stud, into the drywall.
The unit seemed secure until June 3, she said.
The parents had put the twins to bed around 7:15 p.m. that night. After they left, the video shows, 2-year-old Clara walked to the bookcase, pulled out one drawer and climbed in. Her brother Dominic bounced over to join her. “Dominic, drawer, drawer,” she said. With the weight of both twins in the bottom drawer, the unit craned forward, then crashed.
Oka said she heard the thud from upstairs, glanced at the baby monitor and saw the bookcase flat on the floor. She took the stairs down to their bedroom several at a time and, with her husband, lifted the bookcase off her children. She checked them for bumps and bruises, finding none.
After putting them back to bed, Oka’s anger quickly set in. “I was so mad and I was instantly like, I have to tell somebody,” she said. “I have to find somebody who can hear this story.”
She contacted the Philadelphia law firm that has represented several parents whose children died in tip-overs of Ikea dressers. Attorney Daniel Mann connected her with one of those parents, explained how to file a complaint with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and offered to inform Ikea of the incident.
Oka said she does not plan to file litigation against the company, as her children were not injured. She’s watched the video countless times trying to figure out how that happened and believes the bookshelves fell out when the unit crashed forward, allowing her children to be trapped in the frame but not crushed.
That night, after putting her twins back to bed, Oka said she checked on the stability of another Ikea bookcase in her 4-year-old son's bedroom. The unit, from the Billy line, was also anchored but detached from the wall when Oka pulled at it. She said she hopes the video will make the danger seem real to other parents and encourage them not only to anchor their furniture, but to test the strength of those anchors.
“I'm so glad that I have this video. As horrible as it is to watch it, I know the outcome was that they were fine,” she said. “And your mind obviously is going to go to the kids that aren't fine.”
Tricia L. Nadolny is a reporter on the USA TODAY investigations team. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TriciaNadolny.
I own an Ikea dresser. Now what?
Was my dresser part of the recall?
If you own a Malm dresser sold between 2002 and mid-2016, there is a good chance it was recalled. But more than 100 other lines of Ikea dressers are included as well. A full list of products, along with steps for taking part in the recall, is available at ikea-usa.com/saferhomestogether.
I own a recalled dresser. Should I keep it or get rid of it?
If it is not anchored, first make sure it cannot be reached by children.
The recall allows people to keep or return the item, but safety advocates recommend that the dressers be removed from homes because of the concern that they will not be anchored or they will later be used by someone unaware of the recall. Many of the recalled dressers can be returned for a full refund. Consumers can bring the dresser to any Ikea retailer, or Ikea will come pick it up from your home, free of charge.
I want to keep my Ikea dresser. What are my options?
You should anchor it to the wall. You can request a free wall anchoring kit from Ikea and install it yourself, or Ikea will send someone to your home to attach it for you free of charge.
Do I need a receipt to take part in the recall?
Typically a receipt is not required, but Ikea says it can request a receipt based on the total number of dressers being returned by one customer.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Video shows anchored Ikea bookcase crashing onto twins