Washington, D.C. – Consumer Federation of America, Parents for Window Blind Safety and Independent Safety Consulting applaud Health Canada’s leadership on window blind safety.
Health Canada’s Corded Window Covering Regulation updates regulatory requirements for corded window coverings and provides stronger protection to children in Canada. The Regulation:
- restricts the length of accessible cords and the size of loops that can be created to help eliminate the risk of strangulation,
- requires that any cord that can be reached must be too short to wrap around the neck of a one-year-old-child (not more than 22 cm in length) or form a hazardous loop that can be pulled over a one-year-old-child’s head (not more than 44 cm in perimeter) when subjected to a pull force that a child could exert,
- requires that cord that cannot be reached would have to remain unreachable throughout the useful life of the product, and
- requires a warning on the product, packaging, instructions, and on associated advertisements that speak to the hazards and specifications outlined above, with instructions to immediately remove the product should those hazards become present.
“Health Canada’s Regulation is now the strongest in the world because it restricts the length of cords on all window covering products in the Canadian market,” stated Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel with Consumer Federation of America. The U.S. standard – developed by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) – does not have this restriction and still permits hazardous accessible cords on some window coverings sold in the U.S. “We urge WCMA to strengthen the U.S. voluntary standard so that it is harmonized with Health Canada’s Regulation.”
For nearly 20 years, the U.S. voluntary standard (WCMA/ANSI) has repeatedly failed to address the issue in a comprehensive and effective way. Repeatedly, the standard has permitted accessible long cords that are capable of strangling children. While the U.S. voluntary standard addresses the strangulation hazard for “stock” products, it continues to allow hazardous cords for “custom products.” “ But when it comes to strangulation, it does not matter whether or not the product is “stock” or “custom” – this is a meaningless distinction when it comes to a child strangling in a cord,” stated Carol Pollack-Nelson, Ph.D., a human factors psychologist and President of Independent Safety Consulting. “Any long or looped accessible cord on any window covering product poses a risk of strangulation. The Canadian Regulation for Corded Window Coverings prohibits hazardous accessible cords on all window covering products; the U.S. standard fails to do so.”
The distinction between stock and custom is also blurry for retailers. Some online retailers continue to sell stock products with long cords. For other retailers, it is not clear if their products are “stock” or “custom” but they continue selling products with dangerous cords. Also, some retailers selling “custom” products fail to include effective or prominent warnings informing consumers of the strangulation risk in the cords. For this reason, we urge the U.S. to align its standard with the Canadian Regulation and prohibit hazardous, accessible cords on any window covering.
“Although some consumers may be aware of the hazards associated with window coverings, many can’t afford to buy new window coverings or believe that tying cords out of reach will keep their children safe,” stated Linda Kaiser, Founder of Parents for Window Blind Safety. “Health Canada’s Regulation requires all window covering manufacturers to produce safe products for environments where children sleep, play and visit. This Regulation meets all of the requirements of our unbiased Lab Tested Mom Approved® testing program for window coverings.”
All three organizations have prioritized window blind safety for nearly two decades through participation in the voluntary and mandatory standards processes in the United States and Canada. The organizations participated in the United States WCMA/ANSI voluntary standards process in 2010 and 2012, Health Canada’s 2013 standard update, and the United States mandatory standards process through petitioning the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2014 to ban unsafe accessible window covering cords.
Educational efforts by window covering manufacturers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and public interest organizations to warn consumers about the risks posed by corded window coverings have not significantly reduced the risk to consumers. Window coverings are highly familiar products and thus, consumers are not in an “information-seeking mode” as it relates to these products. Decades have passed since this deadly hazard was first made known to industry, and due to their slow inaction, strangulation deaths and permanent injuries have persisted with no data supporting the current standard will be effective.
The Canadian Regulation for Corded Window Coverings is consistent with what is technologically feasible for the production of window coverings. It is currently possible, across every window covering category, to produce window coverings that do not pose strangulation risks to children. The research and technology already exist to design products without strangulation risks.
“We appreciate Health Canada’s leadership on window covering safety. Health Canada’s Regulation is a strong standard that will ensure that a high level of safety is applied to all products for sale in the market,” stated Kaiser. “For the first time, this will effectively protect consumers and strengthen the market for companies who want to innovate to protect children.”
Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel, Consumer Federation of America, 202-939-1012
Linda Kaiser, President and Founder, Parents for Window Blind Safety, 314-494-7890
Carol Pollack Nelson, Independent Safety Consulting, LLC, 301-340-2912