Regulations Dragged as Home Item Kept Killing Kids

Cords from window coverings caused the death of more than 450 kids in the last 50 years
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2023 3:00 PM CST
Regulations Dragged as Home Item Kept Killing Kids
Window blinds have caused the death of more than 450 children in the last 50 years.   (Getty/in4mal)

More than 450 kids, most of them toddlers, died from strangulation after getting tangled up in the cords of window coverings since the early '70s. An NBC News investigation—formatted via a timeline that tracks industry and government actions, alongside tragic firsthand accounts from parents—now asks why more hasn't been done over the last 50 years to prevent these deaths. They report that cords from window blinds and coverings can cause children to lose consciousness in as quickly as 15 seconds; they can die in as little as two to three minutes. But despite the Consumer Product Safety Commission identifying cords as a risk in 1981, regulation has been slow, allowing voluntary safety standards until recently.

"To have your child die of something so preventable—it really taints your view of humanity," said Erin Shero, whose toddler son Colton died in 2013. NBC notes that when the CPSC drafted its first public warning about blinds in 1985 in a joint release with an industry group, the language largely put the onus on parents. "We do not believe it is reasonable to expect a parent to 'watch' a child 24 hours a day," a staffer said in response, referencing the deaths of children in cribs.

The language was amended slightly at the time, and new warnings—along with safety labels, repair kits, and education campaigns—became the standard, but little was done to regulate the industry on a federal level, even as children continued to die. Injury is another factor. NPR reports that between 1990 and 2015, more than 16,000 kids were rushed to emergency rooms for injuries caused by window blinds—nearly two per day, on average. Most children (93%) weren't seriously injured, but oxygen deprivation causes permanent brain damage in some cases. "I wouldn't wish someone having a perfectly beautifully healthy child and it all getting ripped away like that," said Candice Hale, whose 2-year-old daughter suffered a severe brain injury in 2019 after getting caught in a window blind cord.

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In 2022, the CPSC finally issued its first federal safety rules for blinds, only to have them shot down by a lawsuit from an industry group. The judge agreed the lack of standards poses a risk, but the agency failed to follow certain procedures. "Too many children have died or been seriously injured as a result of window blind cords," said CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric, who calls the agency's work "unfinished." While new regulations are in the works, the issue of old window blinds pose a continued risk. Per KIRO 7, a Wisconsin 2-year-old died of asphyxiation after being strangled by the pull cord of window blinds just this summer. See how to reduce the risk here. (Read more accidental death stories).

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