Parents know that a big part of being a kid is playing. Letting your imagination run wild, exploring your environment, this is how children learn about the world. But parents also understand that what children see as innocent play can sometimes be hazardous to their health.
Such is the case with window blind cords, which children wrap around their bodies and their necks, sometimes with deadly consequences. According to a recent American Academy of Pediatrics study, 300 children younger than six were strangled to death in window blind cords from 1990 to 2015. Over the same time period, 2,000 children were treated for entanglement injuries.
The Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA), which advocates on behalf of window blind manufacturers, has had a voluntary standard meant to address the hazards of window coverings since 1996. Yet each year, 11 children die and 80 are treated for injuries as a result of window cord strangulation. In some cases, the injuries are so severe that children require 24-hour daily nursing care afterward.
So why do these deaths and injuries keep happening?
The main reason is that the 1996 voluntary standard allows for blinds with dangerous, accessible cords that can strangle infants and young children. The standard has failed for over two decades to significantly reduce or eliminate the strangulation hazard posed by window coverings.
In response to these tragedies, CFA, Parents for Window Blinds and Safety, and other safety organizations petitioned the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue an effective mandatory standard to address the risks that corded window coverings pose to children. In response, and after years of work by safety advocates and the CPSC, the WCMA has agreed to revise its voluntary standard so that dangerous, accessible cords are no longer permitted on “stock” products.
Is My Family Safe Now?
Despite being a positive step forward, this new standard does not eliminate the strangulation risk on all blinds available for purchase. Here’s what you need to know when buying window blinds:
- Window coverings bought off the shelf should be cordless by the end of 2018. These will be the safest option.
- Custom ordered window blinds will still be allowed to have hazardous cords. Insist on cord-free products when purchasing custom.
- Products bought online may still be sold with cords. Be careful to purchase only cord-free.
How Can I Identify Safe Window Coverings for My Family?
Technology has come a long way over the past decade for cordless window coverings. Linda Kaiser, President of Parents for Window Blind Safety, advises consumers seeking safe blinds to look for the following:
- Window coverings with no outer cords and tight inner cords
- Cordless products
- Products carrying the Parents for Window Blind Safety Seal of Approval which is awarded to cordless products that are Lab Tested, Mom Approved™
What About the Blinds in My Home?
Many households already use window blinds with accessible, hazardous cords. Wrapping cords around a cleat, or putting them on top of the valence isn’t enough. Dozens of young children have been strangled by cords that parents had thought were placed out of reach. The best course of action is to replace them with cord-free window coverings.
If you’re moving to a new apartment building, staying in a hotel, or visiting friends and family, be aware. Since blinds with dangerous cords haven’t been recalled, millions of hazardous window blinds remain in living spaces. Keep sleep and play areas free of cords.
Manufacturers Must Go Cordless on All Their Products
For the first time, this voluntary standard requires that some window coverings be cordless. This is a step in the right direction. It’s troubling, however, that the standard continues to allow cords on custom products. CFA would like to see the voluntary standard reopened immediately, so this loophole can be addressed.
It’s also important to note that the voluntary standard is not mandatory, and thus not enforceable by the CPSC. That means that window covering manufacturers are not required to test their products to ensure that they meet the voluntary standard before being put into the market.
We will continue to push for a mandatory standard that eliminates the hazard of window blind cords. Until then, consumers should be vigilant about the products in their homes.