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Window blinds recalled after kids strangle

All Roman-style shades and roll-up blinds are being recalled for repair due to strangulation hazards, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced this week. Since 2001, eight children have died and 16 have been injured after becoming entangled in the cords, according to the commission.

The recall affects about 50 million units nationwide. Homeowners are urged to stop using the blinds until they receive a free retrofit repair kit, available at windowcoverings.org or by calling the Window Covering Safety Council, 800-506-4636.

Nat Klein, a spokeswoman for the Window Covering Safety Council, says no corded window coverings should be used in homes with children.

"If you've got kids in the home, go cordless. Period. That's our message and that's been our message," Klein says. "Throw up a drape, throw up a curtain or you can go buy from a retailer some kind of cordless product."

Corded coverings are no different than other hazardous household items like knives, stairs and electricity, Klein says. "Are we going to take the electrical sockets out of the house? No. We are going to baby-proof them. How do you baby-proof a window covering? You go cordless."

Kathy Kent-Knurek, a pediatric nurse practitioner in Fishers, Ind., says many infant and child deaths are preventable. The former Chicago emergency room nurse has started her own child safety company, The Baby Squad. She works in conjunction with highly rated Home Safe Homes in Noblesville.

“We like to think of child-proofing as layers of protection,” Kent-Knurek says. “The top layer is parental supervision. Anything above and beyond that just keeps our children that much more safe.”

Most parents aren’t aware of the danger posed by inner cords on Roman and roll-up blinds, she says.

“If the blind is down, that inner cord is on the window side. If a toddler gets in between the blind and the window to look out  — that’s what kids do — that cord is very accessible to them,” she says.

The Baby Squad audits the entire home for child safety, Kent-Knurek says. A crew from Home Safe Homes makes the changes or installs safety features. “We tell them how we can make it the safest environment possible and they pick and choose," she says. "Oftentimes it is driven by budget. Some parents don't see it [window blinds] as much of a risk for them.”

The Roman and roll-up shades typically consist of cloth panels rather than slats, with long cords threaded through the back of the blind. Oftentimes, the cord is invisible from the front.

Linda Kaiser of Elgin, Ill., experienced the horror firsthand when her twin daughter, Cheyenne, got entangled in a cord and died in 2002‚ 18 days after her first birthday. The tragedy prompted Kaiser to form the nonprofit Parents For Window Blind Safety.

Kaiser says many parents understand the choking and suffocation hazard of pull cords but still overlook inner cords.

"The death rates are not decreasing," Kaiser says. "That is why I have to continue doing what I'm doing."

Her website shows eight ways a child can be strangled by a window covering.

This week’s action by the safety council is the latest in a decades-long string of recalls involving corded window coverings.  Since 1990, more than 200 infants and children have been strangled by all types of window cords, according to the CPSC.

Unlike a window blind recall in 2000 that also mandated a change in the way the cord is built, the commission is not requiring an immediate design change, a commission spokeswoman says.

"We are looking now to strengthen the standards to make it mandatory," says Nychelle Fleming.

As to why the choking hazard was not noticed before 50 million blinds were sold, Fleming acknowledged that the commission needs to improve its methods.

"We've worked directly with the standards community and enough has not been done," she says. "That is why we are moving forward with strengthening standards."


Comments

I would never have guessed that Roman shades were any more hazardous than anything else in the environment. It's not like it's a bottle of chemicals or a knife. The cords don't look dangerous because they are stitched every few inches onto the side of the shade. I can totally imagine a parent being careful with the outer cords but not thinking of the inner, stitched cords being open enough for a toddler's head. We all have near misses. I hope "a Smart Parent" doesn't experience the "pride goeth before a fall" truism - losing a child is hard lesson in hubris.

It seems like "Smart Parent" is upset because Mrs. Kaiser bought "fancy" shades. I think it's disgusting that you sit on your high throne. It wasn't done on purpose.

I think it is crazy to blame the parents. From what I researched, Kaiser has been screaming about this since 2002, way BEFORE children were dying on Roman Shades. No one knew about that hidden hazard! I am sure a lot of parents thought they were "safer". I think it's sick when people blame parents for their children's deaths. Don't you people realize, without Kaiser's voice, NONE of you would have even known about the inner cords of a window blind. Shame on you for your insensitivity and arrogance.

Bright, inquisitive children will find dangerous playthings, whether in your home or in the homes of those you visit. Be on the outlook for hazards, such as plastic bags, dangling cords, unguarded windows, unlocked medicine cabinets, especially in the homes of relatives you are visiting. Don't be shy about asking to look in drawers and closets for dangerous items. My son was almost suffocated by the polyethylene bag that protected by father's little-used best suit.

I think it is very cruel to blame the parents. I have 2 children and will be the first to tell you that yes when I go home today I will tie my blind strings in a knot because reading this is startling however as a parent you cannot stand over your children 24/7, they are going to fall, they are going to get hurt, that's life. In closing, ironically I work with "retarded" people and I think they would be very insulted by you using their mental status to describe parents of children who were killed via blind strings.

Honestly, I blame the parents. They could have prevented any of this from happening if they would have thought their children and/or replaced their "fancy" shades for something safer. I'm sorry...but the parents of the "8" children that died are retarded.

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