Window covering manufacturers get spanked for safety hazards

Consumer Reports News: June 09, 2011 05:31 PM

About one child dies each month in the U.S. after getting entangled in the cords from window blinds and shades. The hazard has been well known for years, and despite consumer education efforts and tens of millions of recalled products, the annual fatality rate has remained steady over the past two decades. The problem, in our opinion, is window covering manufacturers’ reluctance to eliminate the hazard from their products.

Last year, we reported that the Consumer Product Safety Commission teamed up with their safety agency counterparts in Canada and Europe to pressure the window covering manufacturers to “eliminate the hazard” by developing a comprehensive standard with which the entire industry would comply. They were given until October of this year to issue that standard or face a threat of being regulated by the Governments.

Since then, the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, a trade organization that writes the voluntary standard for window coverings, set out to reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the hazards. Consumer advocates including Linda Kaiser, who founded Parents for Window Blind Safety, objected to proposed changes to the standard that simply “do not go far enough to address the safety issues.” The CPSC agreed and last week CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum sent a letter to the WCMA essentially chastising them for considering changes to their standard that “could continue to expose children to the strangulation hazard.”

Linda Kaiser told us: “For years, industry has ignored the cries of parents whose children were injured or killed on these products. We want SAFE window coverings. Children have died on every type of corded product on the market today including products WCMA has promoted as "safe". WCMA seems more interested in promoting their safety devices, which will be fatal, than using the technology they have to make products strangle free! We are again being ignored on growing concerns for this upcoming standard. Its time to put safety first and money second.”

Today, the Chicago Tribune reported on this issue, and gave heart-wrenching, real-life examples of why eliminating risk from window coverings is so essential.

Don Mays

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