The Dangers of Window Blinds

Many dangers that would be obvious to some are not to others. The dangers that lie in the cords of mini-blinds may not be obvious to parents. The growing concern, along with a growing death toll among children from mini-blind cords, has prompted the window covering industry and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to launch a month long campaign every October to educate consumers on the strangulation hazards that window cords pose to children.

In the past few years the Window Covering Safety Council, a group of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers, have redesigned products and developed standards to fix some of the problems. There are newer products on the market that live up to these new set of safety values. In particular, there are new cord safety standards that are designed to not have any loops where a child could get caught, and there are newer blinds with short cords that do not rest on the ground.

However, many homes are still equipped with the old, dangerous mini-blinds that leaves children in peril. Any blinds that were bought before 2001 should be replaced with the newer options. New parents may not be aware of the dangers of their window coverings, and the best advice we can give is that if you don't know if your blinds are unsafe, simply install new blinds with shorter strings that are not connected into loops.

If you think this is absurd, realize that from January 1991 to August 2004, 180 children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years old died from miniblind related incidents. In almost all cases children became entangled in the long looped cords and were strangled. In cases involving infants, many were playing in their cribs when their necks were caught in the loop, and since many children that age have problems even supporting their heads they were not able to get out of the trap. It is important to stress that there is a simple solution to this problem -- replace your blinds!

The Consumer Product Safety Commission gives many useful tips of caution to avoid problems like these:

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

-- Megan Dickinson

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