Recently, Comfort Research’s Ultra Lounge line of bean bag chairs was forced to issue a recall on more than 1,000 chair covers. Although no company enjoys having its name associated with a product recall, the recall only impacted products that hadn’t included mandated child safety devices, and the recall wasn’t prompted by any injuries. Other companies have not been so lucky. In the past, poorly designed furniture has prompted massive recalls after injuring or even killing consumers. Comfort Research can give thanks that its recall pales in comparison to the five largest furniture recalls in history.
5. Idea Nuova: Children’s Folding Chairs
Bad furniture designs affect everyone, but it’s especially traumatizing when products that we buy for our children end up hurting them. In 2004, Idea Nuova introduced a line of children’s folding chairs. These simple metal chairs featured colorful artwork that won the hearts of many a child. To protect children’s hands from injury, the chairs also included a safety latch over the folding mechanism. However, the mechanism was defective, and several children accidentally caught their fingers in the latch.
In all, five children were injured, with several children losing fingertips to the traitorous mechanism. In 2005, Idea Nuova issued a voluntary recall for the chairs, removing them from the market to prevent any further injuries and repair the affected chairs. The company ended up recalling 1.1 million chairs in what was one of the world’s biggest furniture recalls.
4. Atico International: Children’s Folding Chairs
The early 2000s were not a good time to buy children’s folding chairs. Atico International, a discount manufacturer supplying Chinese-made goods to mass-market retailers, brought this line of colorful metal chairs to market in 2002. By 2005, however, it was clear that the chairs had some serious safety issues. The safety lock would occasionally fail, causing the chairs to collapse with their young occupants. A few unfortunate children found their fingers trapped in the folding mechanism when the chair collapsed, leading to severe cuts, broken bones and a few fingertip amputations.
Unfortunately for the owners of the 1.5 million affected chairs, however, Atico International had shut its operations by the time the true extent of the danger was known. Those who had been injured by the chairs were largely unable to find a remedy. And those who merely owned a defective chair were instructed to simply discard or destroy their brightly colored finger traps.
3. Summit Marketing International: Children’s Folding Chairs
If you were a child in 2005, you could be forgiven for having an overdeveloped fear of folding chairs. A third company, Summit Marketing International, was hit with a massive recall for its line of children’s folding chairs. Like the other entries on this list, the chairs were manufactured in China and distributed through several different mass-market retailers. Their designs – and their design flaws – were similar enough to Atico’s folding chairs. They may have been manufactured in the same factory as Atico’s chairs.
The victims of these defective chairs suffered from the same type of malfunction. With the safety latch failing as the children sat upon the chair. As with the other chairs, some children suffered bruises, cuts and amputated fingertips. Merely for the crime of sitting upon a poorly made chair. Nearly 2.1 million chairs were affected by the recall, but through either brilliance or incompetence, Summit Marketing had gone out of business by the time the recall was announced. The unhappy owners of the defective chairs were forced to simply destroy the chairs.
2. Ace Bayou: Bean Bag Chairs
Long a staple of children’s playrooms and dorm rooms, the humble bean bag chair seems like a foolproof piece of furniture. Since its introduction in 1969, these chairs have remained popular for their light weight, flexibility, comfort and low cost. However, these unassuming chairs have also been an unexpected source of danger.
Bean bag chairs for kids are typically filled with foam pellets, which can cause suffocation when inhaled. If the bean bag chairs remain sealed, this isn’t a danger. Several companies made the questionable decision to include a zipper on the bean bag coverThis allowed owners to refill the chairs if the padding ever became inadequate. However, this also allowed curious children to unzip the cover and climb inside; after climbing in, several children ingested the foam pellets and suffocated.
In 1995, the tide had finally turned against the bean bag chair, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) issued a recall for more than 10 million bean bag chairs. Nine manufacturers were affected, and the recall order stretched all the way back to 1971. In the wake of the recall, legislators mandated that all bean bag chairs be either sealed or equipped with a childproof lock on the zipper.
1. IKEA: Malm Dressers
IKEA is known for selling inexpensive, lightweight and attractive self-assembled furniture. Many a household begins furnishing itself with a healthy assortment of furniture pieces from IKEA, including couches, dressers, chairs, tables and more. When rumors began circulating that IKEA might be the subject of a recall, industry insiders knew that it would be massive.
Going back to 1989, IKEA’s lightweight construction and occasionally questionable design choices had introduced dangerously unstable furniture into some people’s homes. In particular, the Malm series of dressers possessed a unique combination of factors that made them prone to tipping over. In 2014, two children were killed when their Malm dressers fell on them.
IKEA at first tried to bandage over the issue by sending out free anchoring kits to anyone who had purchased the Malm dresser or similar items, but it soon became clear that a free anchoring kit wasn’t going to be enough. In 2016, IKEA issued a full recall on every single eligible dresser that it had ever sold in the United States; the final recall affected nearly 30 million pieces of furniture.
No product is immune to design faults, even seemingly safe objects like furniture. As manufacturers discover new flaws, design standards are changed and laws are updated to ensure that the items we use every day are as safe as possible. The world is dangerous enough without adding rogue dressers to the list of risks we must face. Let’s hope there is fewer furniture recalls in future as a result of better laws.