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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Decades After First Warnings, One Child Dies Every Month From A Fixable Issue

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Despite recalls and warnings dating back 30 years, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports kids are still dying at the rate of 1 child per month from window blinds; hundreds more have been injured. Although companies have made safety improvements to blinds with cords and eventually created cordless blinds, the risk to children still exists. While industry leaders believe the current voluntary safety standards, including warning labels and shorter cords, adequately address the risks of strangulation, CPSC Chairman Elliott Kaye says “They’re just rolling the dice and taking what they can make in terms of profits. And in their mind, if a child dies that’s probably the parents’ fault.”

To bring home the realities of these dangers which elude the majority of us, here is one of many true story. On an August day in 2009, Kathleen Leeson took her children to church and fed them lunch. Before taking them to the park, she put her 2-year-old foster son down for a nap. A short time later, her daughter came out of the bedroom and said that the little boy was “sleeping in the window with something around his neck.” Ms. Leeson, found her son lifeless and hanging an inch off the floor, with a window-blind cord wrapped around his neck. Similar stories can be found on the “Parents for Window Blind Safety” website.

Linda Kaiser formed Parents for Window Blind Safety after her one-year-old daughter was killed in 2002. Kaiser explained that she had moved the long pull cords out of her daughter’s reach, the child pulled out the blind’s inner cord, created a loop, and stuck her head in it. She said the warning labels required after her daughter’s death are confusing. Kaiser also said shorter cords are not the answer; curious kids can easily climb and reach them. Even safety kits distributed by the Window Covering Safety Council do not address the dangling pull cord hazard, which is responsible for 80 percent of the CPSC’s documented accidents. “Any cord that is exposed is a threat,” said Kaiser. Through Parents for Window Blind Cord Safety, Kaiser wants parents to understand that going cordless or using a cord cover device are the only things that truly eliminate the hazard.

Kaiser’s organization and other consumer groups are pushing for a federal ban. Currently under federal rules, the CPSC can set mandatory standards for products when an industry’s voluntary standards don’t adequately improve safety, but it hasn’t done so with window coverings. Until that happens, it is up to consumers. Don’t under estimate the ability of your children; they can reach things higher than you think.

If you have corded blinds in your home, the CPSC gives these tips to make blinds safer for children:

  • Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
  • Keep all window cords out of the reach of children, and make sure that tasseled pull-cords are short and that continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall.
  • Consider installing cordless window coverings in children’s bedrooms and play areas.
  • Lock cords into position whenever lowering horizontal blinds or shades, including when they come to rest on a window sill.
  • Retrofit window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with cord-repair devices or replace them with today’s safer products. A free repair kit can be obtained by calling the Window Safety Covering Council at 800-506-4636 or by visiting windowcoverings.org.

To secure longer cords:

  • Clip the cord to itself or to the window covering with a clamping device, such as a clothes pin or cord clip.
  • Wrap or tie the cord to itself.
  • Wrap the cord around a cleat securely mounted near the top of the window covering
  • Securely install a tie down device (this may be useful when a long looped cord is necessary).
  • When you install new blinds make sure to adjust the cords to their shortest length.
  • When you order new window covering specify that you want a short cord.

Target and IKEA have already stopped selling corded blinds. Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart have announced they will phase out corded blinds on their shelves by 2018.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.