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Safety Crusader Linda Kaiser fights to prevent window blind strangulation

Consumer Reports News: December 06, 2010 05:32 PM

Linda Kaiser, the founder of Parents for Window Blind Safety (PFWBS) has worked for years to address the risk of strangulation posed by window covers like Roman shades. It’s been an ongoing battle to get manufacturers to change their industry standards. Kaiser adamantly believes that the public deserves timely and unbiased information about this issue.   

In 2002, Kaiser’s one-year-old, Cheyenne Rose, was strangled by the inner cord of a window blind. At first, Kaiser thought of her daughter’s death as a freak accident. “I had my pull cords tied up out of her reach,” she said. “Cheyenne had managed to get a hold of the inner cord that ran through the slats of the blind and created a loop.” Kaiser assumed something like this had never happened before, until she started reading reports online about other families with stories all too similar to her own. With the help of a retired firefighter, Kaiser mined the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for information about the safety of window blinds. She then began requesting information from the CPSC under the Freedom of Information Act. Soon, she had several hundred reports about children who had died or were severely injured by window covering cords. It was at that point that she decided to form a non-profit organization that would try and make this information more readily available to consumers. 

According to Kaiser, before PFWBS was established, public information about the safety of window coverings was inaccurate, and there was no one organization that informed the pubic about the hazards of blinds and other window coverings. The only safety information came from the makers of window blinds. “Standards were written to band aid the hazard so the companies would not lose money.” 

The biggest challenge of her advocacy work is educating the public. “So many consumers believe that if they tie up their pull cords, their child is safe. That is what they have been told for 20 years,” Kaiser said. “But to this day, deaths continue to occur at the same rate as they occurred 20 years ago.” That’s why Parents for Window Blind Safety recommends only window coverings with inaccessible inner cords or cord-free systems. 

Since she first began her advocacy and education campaign, the biggest shift over the years is that the industry, the CPSC and PFWBS are working together to implement change. Over the years the CPSC has come more in line with what PFWBS has been advocating for all along, Kaiser said. And the agency has stated that it wants all hazards on window coverings to be eliminated. “We are hoping that the CPSC's bark is as big as its bite.” 

As for the future, Kaiser would like to see childcare facilities required to have only window coverings with inaccessible inner cords or cord-free systems. “I would also like to see military housing and rental properties go cordless. Those who live in these types of housing have no choice on what to place on their windows.”

To read more on the topic of window blind safety: Consumer Reports on shades and blinds recalled after deaths, and Consumers Union's involvement with an international call for safe window coverings.

Maggie Shader

 


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