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Product recall delays leading to deaths and injuries

Product recall delays leading to deaths and injuries. (TND)
Product recall delays leading to deaths and injuries. (TND)
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As more products are recalled across the country, a delay in alerting the public to potential dangers increases the likelihood of injuries and even death.

Spotlight on America Investigative Correspondent Angie Moreschi investigates the danger of delaying product recalls and why those delays happen so often.

Teddy was just 22 months old. A bright and happy little boy, just six weeks shy of his 2nd birthday when the unimaginable happened.

“That’s where it happened, right in that spot,” Teddy’s mom Janet McGee told Spotlight, pointing to the picture in his baby book showing where an Ikea Malm dresser fell on top of him.

“Instead of planning his party, I was planning a funeral,” she said.


It was Valentine’s Day 2016, a Sunday. The family had just gotten home from church in a suburb of Minneapolis. Janet put Ted down for a nap in his bedroom, just like any other day; but when she came back to check on him a short time later, their world changed forever.

I opened his door, and I immediately saw the whole dresser had fallen, and I thought, ‘He’s under there, he has to be under there,’” McGee said, remembering that awful moment.

Teddy’s older brother Blake was just 11 at the time. He heard his mom screaming for someone to call 911.

They rushed him to the emergency room.

“It felt like a bad dream, but at least dreams you can wake up from. But not that,” Blake said, shaking his head and staring off.

Four hours later, Teddy was pronounced dead.


Teddy’s mom is now an advocate who fights for product safety. She sat down with Spotlight on America to share her story hoping it will help lead to change.

  • Moreschi: "How infuriating was it to you to realize other children had died before teddy?"
  • McGee: "It was heartbreaking. Within four days I learned that his dresser had actually killed other children."

Finally, four months after Teddy’s death, Ikea recalled 29 million Malm and other dressers.

But it came too late for too many. At least seven deaths are now documented prior to the recall.

“It’s like playing a game of Russian roulette in your child’s bedroom,” McGee said of the decision not to recall a product, even after multiple deaths.


A recent study released by the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) highlights the danger.

Last year alone, there were nearly 300 product recalls. Of those, 22%, a total of 65 products were involved in 650 injuries and six deaths, which happened over several months, even years, prior to the recalls.

Spotlight talked with the PIRG study’s author, Teresa Murray.

It takes way too stinking long for recalls to be announced after people have reported injuries, even deaths,” Murray said. “These stories are heartbreaking. Babies dying, housefires destroying everything that someone owns, especially when you consider that the companies, and in most cases the government, knew about these problems. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching.”

The PIRG report lists multiple examples of delays before products were recalled, including:

  • A Samsung top-loading washing machine was recalled on Dec. 12, after 51 reports of overheating, smoking, melting, or fire. There were three injuries and at least ten incidents that caused damage.
  • Horizon Fitness treadmills were recalled Oct. 27 after 874 reports of treadmills unexpectedly changing speed or stopping and 71 injury reports. The first complaint was filed 18 months before the recall.
  • Fitbit Smartwatches were recalled April 2 last year, after 115 reports in the U.S. of batteries overheating. There were 78 reports of burn injuries, with the first reports of problems two years before the recall.

Peloton was one of the most troubling examples in recent years. Disturbing videos, like the one above, of children being pulled under its Tread+ treadmill went viral, but despite serious injuries, no recall was issued, until a child died.

Peloton ultimately apologized for not acting sooner and issued voluntary recalls on their Tread and Tread+ machines.

Peloton CEO John Foley issued this statement: “I want to be clear. Peloton made a mistake in our initial response and should have engaged more productively with them from the onset. For that, I apologize.”

  • Moreschi: "Why do we see these products continue to be used after we know they’re dangerous?"
  • Murray: "A lot of time, I can’t even believe I’m saying this word, but there’s negotiation between the company and the regulator."


The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the government agency tasked with protecting consumers from dangerous products. But what many safety advocates call a “flawed law” limits the agency when it comes to issuing warnings and recalls against specific manufacturers — even when they know a product is dangerous.

Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act says the CPSC cannot disclose derogatory information about a product unless it provides the manufacturer with at least 15 days' notice to comment.

That often leads to “negotiation” to avoid a potential suit by the manufacturer to block the disclosure.

It muzzles the CPSC to do their job effectively,” Teddy’s mom Janet McGee told Spotlight.

In 2015, the year before Teddy died, the CPSC was negotiating with Ikea about the Malm dresser, but in lieu of a recall, the company announced a ‘repair kit’ to anchor dressers to the wall.

The CPSC put out this public service announcement, just one month before Ted’s death, warning about the danger of tip-overs; but still, the prior Ikea deaths were not made public.

I felt like ted was a sacrificial lamb. He was the last one to die before Ikea finally said, ‘Hey, let’s get this dresser off the market,” McGee said.

Ikea now works closely with McGee and other parents on safety issues and was instrumental in pushing for the passage of The Sturdy Act to protect children from falling furniture, which was signed into law in December.

Safety will always be a priority for IKEA. We continue to make significant investments in product design, consumer awareness and advocacy,” Ikea said in a statement to Spotlight on America.

Still, as the PIRG report shows, seven years later, recall delays on many other products continue putting consumers at risk.

“The bottom line is our recall system is broken, colossally broken,” Murray said.

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A push is now underway in Washington D.C. to repeal Section 6(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Act which many call a “gag rule” on the CPSC. And after decades of strictly following that rule, the new head of that agency says he is “willing to push it” to be more aggressive in warning consumers about dangerous products. In our next report, Spotlight on America talks exclusively with the Chair of the CPSC and lawmakers working to repeal Section 6(b).

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