Window blind cords are a known strangulation hazard for young children. Despite this common knowledge, research shows that the problem is far from fixed.
Window blinds, as innocuous as they seem, are listed by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in “the top five hidden hazards in U.S. homes.”
This is not a new issue. In fact, the potential for injury by window blind cords first entered the scientific literature in 1945.
Back in 1994, the CPSC and Window Covering Manufacturers Association, Inc. hatched a plan to eliminate loops from most window blind pull cords and provide consumers with free repair kits to alter their existing products.
Again, in 2000, a similar plan was rolled out to address loops in the inner cords of window blinds. But the threat continues: in 1981–1995, 183 children died due to window blind cords in the U.S.
Recently, Dr. Gary A. Smith and a team from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, set out investigate whether these types of injury were still occurring. Their findings are published this month in the journal Pediatrics.
The data showed that between 1990 and 2015, there were around 16,827 window blind-related injuries in children under 6 years old who were treated in U.S. emergency rooms. That’s almost two per day.
Around 12 percent were due to entanglement. Children who became entangled in the cords were, most often, under the care of a parent and had been left alone for under 10 minutes. More than 93 percent were treatable at the first appointment, and the children were released without further care.
But sadly, on average, around one child per month died from a window blind cord injury.
Medical News Today recently spoke with Dr. Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. We asked what motivated him to study these types of injury, and his answer was rightfully impassioned.
“I have been deeply concerned about this injury problem for years,” he noted. “Child deaths due to strangulation on window blind cords are unacceptable […] we have known about this problem since the 1940s and have safe and affordable window blinds already widely available on the market that do not have accessible cords.”
“We have had a voluntary safety standard in this country since the mid-1990s, and we’ve had product recalls, and yet we continue to see these deaths,” he added.
Dr. Smith believes that previous attempts to minimize these injuries fell short of the mark because they were voluntary. He told MNT that, if industry is not prepared to voluntarily make the products safe, “A mandatory federal safety standard should be adopted prohibiting the sale of products with accessible cords.”
“We are not waiting for a cure — we have the solution and simply need the political will to implement it.”
Dr. Gary A. Smith, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Nationwide Children’s Hospital
Dr. Smith told MNT that some parents are not aware of all of the dangers, particularly surrounding “the inner cords of the blinds that are harder to see.”
He explains, “Young children are quick, curious, and unable to recognize danger. Many parents underestimate these factors […] There is a misperception that if we just watch our kids carefully, they will be safe.”
As worrying and tragic as these findings are, the solution is a relatively simple one. As Dr. Smith told MNT, safe blinds are available.
“It is time,” he said, “to require that only these products that do not have accessible cords are the only ones sold in the U.S. […] We live in a world designed by adults for the convenience of adults, and, unfortunately, child safety is often an afterthought. It is time to put child safety first.”
Hopefully, this increase in visibility might be the push needed to change policy for the better. When children are being injured despite the existence of a perfectly good solution, it simply must be time for change.