Window blinds have injured nearly 17,000 children under age six since 1990, according to a new study in Pediatrics. The statistics suggest that, each day, two children are injured by window blinds, and that approximately one child dies each month after becoming entangled in a hidden window blind cord.
“We’ve known about this risk for over 70 years, yet we’re still seeing children strangled by these products,” co-author on the study Gary Smith of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio told WebMD.
“It’s just unacceptable.”
The findings “should be a huge wake-up call to the public, to the retailers, to the manufacturers and to parents all over the nation to really see how hazardous the cords on the blinds are,” Linda Kaiser, founder of Parents For Window Blind Safety, told ABC News. Kaiser founded the advocacy group after her 1-year-old daughter pulled a hidden cord from a window blind, and died with it around her neck.
She is not alone. Andrea Sutton of Colorado put her 3-year-old son down for a nap, and returned to find him lifelessly hanging from his window blinds. “We didn’t know how long he was strangling…they tried to do as much as they could, but I knew he was gone,” she told NPR. “People think it won’t happen to them, that it’s a fluke, they say ‘I watch my kids,'” Sutton added. “Nobody watches their kids 24-7.”
For the study, Smith and colleagues rifled through two databases maintained by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They found that, between 1990 and 2015, there were an estimated 16,827 window blind-related injuries among children younger than age six. Most of these injuries were minor — window blinds fall (especially when pulled by curious hands) and occasionally strike small children. But in 12 percent of cases, children became entangled in either the blind cord or, more insidiously, the inner cords that are woven between the blinds. Among children who became entangled, 98.7 percent involved a cord wrapping around a child’s neck. Nearly 70 percent of these injuries resulted in death.
Simply watching your child is not enough to protect them from the hidden hazards of window blinds. Ninety percent of these injuries occurred under the care of parents, usually after a child had been put to bed, or when a child was supposed to be playing or watching TV unsupervised. The deaths often took hold in a matter of minutes. Awareness, then, is key. Most parents keep an eye out for the external pull cords on their blinds, but barely notice their blinds’ inner cords. If you can afford it, experts recommend replacing all window blinds in your home with cordless coverings. If that is not practical, the authors of the study recommend that parents at least replace or remove the blinds in each child’s bedroom, and suggest keeping furniture away from unsafe window blinds so children cannot climb up and reach them.
On a manufacturing level, Smith told CNN that the best solution is “designing the problem out of existence,” since cordless blinds are available and affordable options. Indeed, even as corded blinds dominate the market, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has long called for manufacturers to remove them from circulation. The CPSC lists blinds among the most dangerous hidden hazards in homes.
The good news is that cordless blinds are likely to become the industry standard by late 2018 (pending approval from the American National Standards Institute) Paul Nathanson, a spokesman for the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, told The Washington Post. The bad news is that updated standards cannot bring back the 300 children who lost their lives to what essentially amounts to poor manufacturing by an industry that ignored consumer safety warnings for decades. Sure, the new standards will protect children. But they’re far too late to help Kaiser, Sutton, and other grieving parents.
“Seventy years ago we recognized that this was a product that was killing kids,” Smith told The Associated Press. “We should put child safety first.”