Deaths of 4 children in 3 weeks renews call to ban cords on window coverings

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 4, 2014 

In the space of 22 days, four children strangled to death after becoming tangled in the cords on window coverings, prompting renewed calls for the federal government to strengthen safety standards.

The deaths of a 6-year-old Maryland girl on Feb. 8, a 3-year-old Texas girl on Feb. 15, a 4-year-old Georgia boy on Feb. 17, and a 2-year-old Maryland boy on March 1 are the most recent tragedies caused by children becoming trapped in loops formed by the cords on window coverings.

The product has caused nearly 300 deaths and serious injuries since 1996, according to statistics compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal agency.

A child strangles to death on average about once a month.

Despite voluntary industry efforts to make window coverings safer, the rate of deaths and injuries hasn’t dropped significantly in decades.

Consumer groups on Tuesday seized on the most recent losses of life to pressure the Commission to take action.

The groups want the Commission to create mandatory standards for window coverings so that manufacturers could no longer legally produce blinds that pose a strangulation hazard.

“Every day the Commission does not act, children are put at risk,” said Linda Kaiser, founder and president of Parents for Window Blind Safety, in a statement. “Four children dying in three weeks is tragic, unacceptable and preventable.”

Kaiser and her husband Matt formed the nonprofit Parents for Window Blind Safety in 2002, after their daughter, Cheyenne Rose, was strangled to death by a cord.

Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the Commission, said his agency takes such concerns seriously, but officials are not yet at the point of imposing mandatory safety standards on manufacturers.

Instead, the Commission is focused on educating consumers about their choices in the marketplace, and encouraging them to buy window coverings that are cordless, or with inaccessible cords, Wolfson said.

“It is absolutely tragic what has happened in recent weeks in Maryland, Texas and Georgia,” he said. “These are preventable deaths. … We urge all parents and grandparents when they are out shopping for new window blinds to be aware that retailers across the country have cordless options and options with inaccessible cords. These are products that can prevent a hidden hazard in millions of homes. They are becoming more affordable.”

The Window Covering Safety Council also offers three different free repair kits that parents and grandparents can order online, Wolfson said.

“They are a step in the right direction towards a safer blind, but they are not a fool-proof solution,” he said.

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