Window covering manufacturers to ban blinds with potentially hazardous cords

PHOTO: Window blinds are seen here. Getty Images/EyeEm
Window blinds are seen here.

By the end of 2018, U.S. consumers shopping for window blinds will see only standard models without accessible cords.

Child safety advocates have been pushing manufacturers to ban window blinds with cords for years, as noted in a 2015 investigation by ABC News that highlighted numerous child deaths involving the potentially hazardous products, with the tally now at more than 255.

The Window Covering Manufacturers Association worked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to develop the new industry standard, which requires most window covering products sold in the United States and Canada to be cordless or have inaccessible or short cords.

People who still need corded blinds, such as the elderly and those with disabilities, will be able to custom order corded blinds, but even those will be made safer under the new standard, the industry group said.

“All companies who manufacture, distribute, or sell window coverings in the U.S. must comply with the voluntary safety standard or face enforcement action by the CPSC and/or be open to legal action if non-compliant products are sold,” WCMA Executive Director Ralph Vasami said in a statement.

For years, safety advocates have warned that window blind cords pose a hazard to young children. According to a study published in this month’s volume of Pediatrics, from 1990 to 2015, there were an estimated 16,827 window blind–related injuries among children younger than 6 treated in emergency departments in the United States. Entanglement injuries accounted for 11.9 percent of all cases, and at least 255 children died in entanglement accidents, the study reported.

According to the CPSC, nearly one child death per month is caused by entanglement in window blinds.

Until recently, the window blind industry had argued that educating consumers – rather than banning corded blinds – was the way to go, but ABC News investigation conducted with ABC stations across the country in 2015 found mixed messages from retailers selling the blinds. The serious risk of strangulation was often not mentioned or was underplayed.

Former CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye, in an interview with ABC News in 2015, accused the window blind industry of resisting efforts to address the risks by enlisting lobbyists and public relations campaigns. Kaye pressured the industry, and under his watch, major retailers like Target and IKEA have stopped selling corded blinds. Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart pledged to end sales by the end of 2018, which now coincides with the industry change.

The industry group Friday credited new CPSC Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle with pushing up the date for new standards to take effect from the original target of Jan. 9, 2019 to Dec. 15, 2018. The group noted that it expected many companies to begin introducing the new cordless models even earlier.

Buerkle issued a statement Friday expressing support for the change, saying, “extensive efforts have been made by CPSC staff, consumer advocates, retailers, manufacturers, test labs and other stakeholders in the development of this consensus standard. I applaud and appreciate all of these efforts. … I look forward to this same group of experts, taking the next step to address strangulation hazards related to custom window coverings.”

For consumers who may still have corded blinds, the CSPC urges replacement of corded blinds in homes where children live or visit, and offers safety tips such as keeping cribs, beds and furniture away from window blinds.