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."