Infant Risks from Curtains, Blinds and Shades to be Addressed by U.S. CPSC
Following reports of deaths after infants become entangled in curtains, blinds and shades sold by a number of different companies, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is developing mandatory safety standards for window coverings to protect young children from dangers posed by free hanging cords.
On January 16, the CPSC published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the federal register, announcing new rules concerning the risk of injury associated with corded window coverings, the costs to achieve each regulatory alternative, the effect of each alternative on the safety, cost, utility, availability of window coverings, and other possible ways to address the risk of strangulation posed to young children by window covering cords.
The notice also invites interested persons to submit an existing standard or a statement of intent to modify or develop a voluntary standard to address the risk of injury.
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The CPSC has been working with the window covering industry to address the infant risks from corded curtains, blinds, shades and other window covering products for many years.
At least 184 children were strangled to death and more than 100 others were injured after becoming entangled in window curtain cords between 1996 and 2012, according to the federal regulatory agency.
Among the non-fatal injury reports of children becoming entangled in the cords, 19 children suffered injuries ranging from scarring around the neck, to permanent brain damage.
Nine patients suffered severe neurological outcomes, such as cerebral edema, coma, loss of cognitive abilities, a loss of function or mobility, and quadriplegia. Some infants required intensive care, monitoring and lifelong care therapy due to permanent damage sustained.
The CPSC has also recorded that some of the 78 incidents classified as “minor injury” incidents involved children being found entangled in the cords so tightly their faces had turned blue from airway obstruction. Had the children not been found in the matter of moments, the results could have led to fatalities.
In 2009, the CPSC issued a nationwide roman shades and roll-up blinds recall, encompassing 50 million window coverings that had been linked to nine child deaths at that time.
The CPSC’s believes that with an average of 11 fatal strangulations each year among children, its current safety standards are not effective enough.
As detailed in the proposal in the Federal Register, the CPSC is seeking to eliminate free hanging cords by mandating cleats to be sold with the assembly so that excess cord can be wound around the cleat. Additional proposals seek to increase the height in which the cords are located to prevent children’s abilities to reach them. Other potential standards include integrated cord/chain tensioning devices that creates a crank mechanism with no slack in in the chain for children to become entangled.
The agency has sought to prevent the hazards with advances in technology such as cordless and battery powered blinds. Removing the potential hazard of a cord could eliminate the potentially situation all together. The CPSC expressed this is a movement that could be encouraged, but not all consumers have the financial means to make the switch to costly electric cordless window curtains.
The CPSC says it will continue to work with the Window Covering Manufacturers Association to increase safety standards through a combination of design and placement strategies for corded curtains, blinds, and covering. The CPSC is encouraging the public to comment and make suggestions on its advanced notice of rule-making within 60 days.
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