-- IKEA announced today that its U.S. stores will no longer stock window blinds with pull cords long-blamed for strangulation deaths and injuries to children – a move that the government’s top consumer safety official said is a “game changer.”
The retailer is the latest to remove from its inventory the widely-used product containing what the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) calls of one of the five deadliest "hidden home hazards."
Some window blinds are made with pull cords that can tangle and create a choking hazard for children who may play with them. According to statistics released by the CPSC, nearly one young child per month dies from strangulation by window blind cords.
"These statistics make it evident that window blinds and coverings with exposed cords can be a hazard for young children," IKEA said in a press release.
The Swedish retailer made the announcement at the start of Window Covering Safety Month.
“IKEA is committed to working together with our customers to raise awareness of this important issue and to help families get the knowledge they need to ensure a safer everyday life at home," said Heather Spatz, IKEA U.S. Country Sales Manager.
IKEA said that starting today, it will only carry window blinds or coverings that have either no cords or inaccessible cords. The retailer noted that its global stores will make the transition by January 2016.
CPSC reports there have been at least 285 cases of fatal or serious injury strangulation of young children due to window blind cords from 1996 to 2012. The CPSC is now currently considering imposing a mandatory standard on the manufacturing and selling of corded blinds, which are popular in part because they tend to be inexpensive.
IKEA is the latest large retailer to make the announcement it would no longer carry corded blinds.
Last year Target informed the CPSC that it would phase out corded blinds from its inventory, and in a recent statement to ABC News, the Minneapolis-based giant said "the entire Target blinds assortment is now cordless," calling product safety a "top priority."
"This is a bold step by IKEA and Target,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye told ABC News. “This is the exact kind of leadership and corporate responsibility that has been needed to end the decades of senseless and preventable deaths of children from window cord strangulations.”
Kaye said that IKEA and Target are “proving what we have long believed was possible: that consumers can shop for window coverings that do not kill children and find affordable options.”
“The window covering industry has steadfastly denied that this was possible and they are being proven wrong,” he said. “I want to see more forward-looking, responsible manufacturers and retailers of window coverings do what IKEA and Target have done. Only then will the heartbreaking pattern of a child being strangled nearly once a month finally come to an end. It cannot happen fast enough as far as I am concerned.”
Ralph Vasami, Executive Director at the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, said, “Federal officials, safety advocates and the window covering industry all agree that only cordless window coverings or those with inaccessible cords should be used in homes with young children.”
“For this reason the WCMA recently launched the Best for Kids certification program to help both retailers and consumers easily identify window covering products that are best suited for use in homes with infants and young children. This will help retailers like IKEA easily identify these products by the Best for Kids label,” Vasami said. “However, window covering companies must serve all segments of the market. Affordable cordless technology is not available for every window covering configuration. While cordless products are available in many product lines, the practical application for their use, affordability and acceptance by consumers in the market are not universal. For example, cordless products simply don’t work for some user groups, including the elderly and people with disabilities. It is for this reason that most retailers and manufacturers continue to offer both cordless and safe, corded window covering products in addition to supporting nationwide window covering safety awareness programs such as Window Covering Safety Month.”
The CPSC provides recommendations for preventing strangulations by window cords in its Window Covering Safety Center website.