Window Blinds: A Silent Killer in Your Home

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MONDAY, Dec. 11, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Decades after the danger was first recognized, young children are still being injured or even killed by the cords in window blinds.

Researchers found that between 1990 and 2015, nearly 17,000 U.S. children younger than 6 years landed in the ER for injuries related to window blinds. Most often, the injuries were not serious.

However, one child died each month, on average -- usually from strangulation by window-blind cords.

"We've known about this risk for over 70 years, yet we're still seeing children strangled by these products," said study senior researcher Dr. Gary Smith. "It's just unacceptable."

Smith directs the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Cordless blinds are available -- and can be made affordably, according to Smith. That makes it "very doable," he said, for manufacturers to replace corded blinds with safe alternatives.

Over the years, the industry has come up with voluntary safety standards to make it less likely that children would entangled in blind cords. Those efforts included getting rid of loops in the pull cord that children can stick their heads through.

But those measures have not been enough, Smith said.

In 2014, he noted, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proposed a rule that would require blinds to be cordless or have cords that are inaccessible to children.

So far, it hasn't been put into action.

Smith said he thinks it's time for regulators to move on the issue.

Dr. Barbara Pena is research director of the emergency department at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami. "Many people probably think this is a thing of the past, but it's still happening," she said.

Some parents and caregivers, she said, may not even realize that corded window blinds are a hazard to young children.

So as long as the products are still out there, Pena said, awareness is the first critical step.

Smith agreed that lack of awareness is a problem. Sometimes, he said, families think that the pull cord on the blinds is the only risk -- and that keeping it out of kids' reach is enough.

"But the inner cords also pose a risk," he pointed out.

The best thing parents can do, Smith said, is to replace any corded blinds in the house with cordless window coverings.

For lower-income families, that may be easier said than done, he acknowledged. But, he said, they can start by replacing any old blinds in the rooms where their child spends the most time -- like a child's bedroom and the living room.

If a home does have corded blinds, Pena said, it's important to keep any furniture away from the windows so children can't climb up to get to the blinds.

Children between the ages of 1 and 4 -- curious and mobile -- are most at risk, according to Smith.

The study's findings came from the researchers' analysis of two databases maintained by the CPSC. They found that from 1990 to 2015, children were treated for window-blind injuries at an average rate of two a day.

About half of the injuries came from children reportedly being "struck by" the blinds. In 12 percent of the cases, though, a child became entangled in the blinds' cords.

The findings are published online Dec. 11 in the journal Pediatrics.

Entanglements usually happened at home. But Smith said it's important for parents to know whether there are window-blind hazards anywhere their child spends time -- such as relatives' homes or day care.

More information

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has more on window covering safety.

SOURCES: Gary Smith, M.D., Dr.Ph., director, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Barbara Pena, M.D., research director, emergency department, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, Miami; Pediatrics, Dec. 11, 2017, online.
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