Safety Commission Proposes New Guidelines For Window Blinds to Prevent Deaths

On average, a child dies every month after getting entangled in window covering cords.

News4's Erika Gonzalez spoke with Heather Dautrich and her husband Bill, who consider themselves lucky. Their son, 10-year-old Bobby, got entangled in a cord while playing with his older brother in 2005 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. He's now disabled with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and is legally blind. 

His mom Heather said she stepped away from her boys for a quick moment to do the dishes.

"It was a very short time," she said. "I had been gone maybe two minutes. I thought that morning I was doing everything I could. That my kids were protected [and] in a safe environment."

After hearing her older son yell for her, she walked back into the room to find Bobby dangling from a window cord. Heather cut her son loose and attempted CPR. Bobby spent two months in intensive care and now requires constant care from his parents.

Young children can easily get tangled in the cords of several different kinds of window coverings, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. This includes roll-up blinds, roman shades or wood paneled blinds. 

Erica Thomas' 2-year-old son Mac passed away after getting entangled in the cord behind a roman shade in his bedroom. 

"I listened at the door and I paused for just a second and I just knew something wasn't right," Thomas said. "As I lifted him, I could see this dark mark right on the corner of his neck."

Elliot Kaye, chairman of the CPSC, told News4 it's important parents check bedrooms -- and all other rooms kids frequent -- for potential dangers.

"The rooms that parents think are the safest in the house which are the children's bedroom are the rooms that are most likely for the incidents to occur."

After a 2013 petition by seven consumer groups, the CPSC is proposing two new rules for window blinds.

"Trying to eliminate pull cords that create a loop that a child can put his or her head through and get strangled by," Kaye said.

The second rule would ensure the tension devices in continuous loop cords are installed correctly.

"If that is not installed properly, the blinds will not function," Keye said. 

Statement from Ralph Vasami, Executive Director, Window Covering Manufacturers Association:

"Safety is the top priority of the window covering industry. Our industry works to ensure that its products meet our customers’ demands for performance, choice and safety. The Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) is extremely disappointed with the Commission’s vote to move forward with this petition. Under the CPSC’s own rules, the petition failed to meet any of the criteria for the Commission to consider a mandatory window covering safety standard. Based on the CPSC’s and petitioners’ own data, the number of incidents related to these products continues to decline. There is substantial compliance among industry members to the voluntary safety standard and the industry has a strong track record of cooperating with the CPSC.

"The petition’s proposal to “eliminate accessible cords or make cords inaccessible” would only result in removing safe products from the market and cost thousands of jobs throughout the United States. By raising costs, a rule that banned corded window covering products would most likely cause consumers to hold onto older products longer. This would create a less safe environment because the CPSC’s own data show that more than 80% of incidents occur with older products that don’t meet current standards or where the consumer did not install or use the product properly. This is why the industry sponsors a nationwide safety education program through the Window Covering Safety Council, and a retrofit program that has distributed more than 500,000 repair kits since 2008 to retrofit older products.

"If granted, the petition will ban safe corded window coverings without considering whether there are feasible alternatives. The petition’s over simplification of the technical challenges involved in this issue doesn’t change the fact that there is no universal technological fix that exists today that would cover the wide variety of custom-made, made-to measure and stock types of window coverings and their users, and allow consumers to purchase window coverings at a cost comparable to current products. Neither CPSC staff nor petitioners have identified any viable technology to replace the wide range of corded window coverings.

"We remain confident that once the Commissioners understand how these products operate, how the safety standard encourages innovation and the serious, multi-pronged efforts of the industry to address safety for all consumers, they will come to the conclusion that the voluntary safety standard is working and a mandatory standard is not warranted."

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