FairWarining Investigates

Years of Talking, Kids Still Dying

Strangulation Hazard From Window Blind Cords

Photo of Erin Shero and son Colton Shero

Erin Shero and her youngest son, Colton Shero, in the spring of 2013, about five months before the toddler was fatally strangled by a window blind cord. “My son died in less time than it takes to pop a bag of popcorn,” Shero said.

After fixing a quick snack for her children one day in October 2013, Erin Shero returned to the downstairs playroom of her suburban Chattanooga, Tenn., home. She wanted to check on the youngest of her five kids, Colton, who was two days away from his second birthday.

Thinking he was asleep, Shero reached down to pick up Colton — only to discover a window blind cord wound tightly around his neck. A medical examiner later determined that Colton was killed in less than a minute. “My son died in less time than it takes to pop a bag of popcorn,” Shero said.

American children have been dying that way for decades. As far back as 1981, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission identified window blind cords as a cause of strangulation deaths among children under five.

According to data compiled by the CPSC, at least 332 children, most of them under the age of two, have been fatally strangled by window cords over the last 30 years. Another 165 have been injured, including some who suffered permanent brain damage or quadriplegia requiring lifelong care and therapy, according to the nonprofit group Parents for Window Blind Safety.

The fatalities have included children strangled in the presence of a playmate or sibling, with a parent or caregiver footsteps away. Cords make for a chillingly quick and silent death. Victims are unable to cry out for help — they lose consciousness in 15 seconds, and can be brain dead in a minute or two.

The CPSC began working with industry in the 1980s to develop safety measures to stem the rising toll. Yet officials have scant progress to show for their efforts, with children continuing to die at a rate of almost one a month.

The regulatory stalemate highlights weaknesses in the legal mandate of the CPSC to protect consumers – and shows how the window-covering industry has exploited that regime to keep agency officials at bay.

A solution proposed by consumer groups: Ban new blinds with cords if the cords can’t be kept away from children.

Over the years, the industry has staved off agency action with what critics say are a patchwork of voluntary fixes that have provided only an illusion of safety and have in some cases made the cord hazard worse.

Under the law, the CPSC is required to defer to industries that are developing standards voluntarily to fix products that harm consumers. The theory is that the agency has neither the time nor the resources to oversee the vast array of products subject to its jurisdiction – and that manufacturers have a strong incentive to ensure that their products are safe.
“How many years of professional courtesy should the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission extend to the window coverings industry before abandoning the voluntary standards process?” asked Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, a Massachusetts-based research and advocacy firm.

In reality, some industries have used the system to put off regulatory action for years while dangerous products maim and kill. The CPSC has the power to impose mandatory rules when it thinks the voluntary standards are inadequate. Critics say the time for such action with window blinds passed long ago, and that the agency has failed the public by leaving the industry to its own devices.

In an interview with FairWarning, Elliot Kaye, the CPSC’s chairman, acknowledged that the window blind problem is “probably unprecedented,” considering the lengthy delay in regulatory action, the vulnerable population and the continuing deaths.

“I am not going to take the commission off the hook. We could have pushed harder. We own that,” Kaye said. He added that the issue is among his highest priorities, and while he may be open to a new and tougher voluntary standard, the case for a mandatory rule has become compelling. “I would feel like a failure … if we didn’t find a solution,” Kaye said.

In interviews and regulatory filings, industry officials say they have acted responsibly, and that changes in voluntary standards and technological advances have made new window blinds safer than ever. While it introduced cordless blinds in the 1990s, the industry says many types of blinds cannot operate without cords, and that a ban on corded products would force it to drop many popular styles.

Industry officials blame the safety problems largely on consumers who install or maintain their blinds improperly and on parents who don’t do enough to keep their children out of harm’s way. “The best way to bring about this change sooner is through consumer education, not through a mandatory standard that unfairly burdens industry and has a detrimental impact on the needs of numerous consumers,” the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group, said in a filing with the CPSC.

“We have worked very cooperatively with CPSC over the many years,” added Ralph Vasami, the executive director of the WCMA and a group vice president of Kellen Company, a New York-based public relations and association management firm.

New regulations could hurt the industry’s bottom line. Corded blinds account for an estimated 75 percent of the industry’s roughly $2 billion in annual sales in the U.S. The CPSC estimates that making cordless products exclusively could drive up the industry’s manufacturing costs as much as $619 million a year, or about $5.50 per wall covering, although much or all of that added expense could be passed along to consumers.

The industry is dominated in the U.S. by three companies: the Dutch concern Hunter Douglas NV; Springs Window Fashions, based in Middleton, Wis.; and Atlanta-based Newell Rubbermaid.

Critics say the industry is looking out for its own best interests and doing the minimum to protect the public.

“They are not going cordless because they want to protect their profit margins,” said James Onder, a St. Louis lawyer who has filed, and settled, more than 50 lawsuits against the industry in 23 states related to children killed or injured by window blinds. “The industry has made a conscious decision that it is cheaper to pay off a lawsuit than it is to save human lives” by eliminating corded blinds, he said.

Some of the suits have become wrenching ordeals in which grieving mothers and fathers are accused of contributing to the deaths of their children by being negligent parents. WCMA defended a suit in Alaska by asserting that the mother of a child who strangled on window cords would not have heeded better safety warnings on the blinds because she had not childproofed her home and smoked while she was pregnant.

In an Illinois case, an expert witness for Hunter Douglas asserted that the parents of another strangulation victim did not exhibit “safety information seeking behaviors” because they had not read parenting magazines or consulted with their pediatrician about child safety issues.

The WCMA, in a statement to FairWarning, said company lawyers raised those points because “plaintiffs alleged that defendants ‘failed to warn’ them of the potential dangers of window blinds; in depositions, counsel went through the various warnings to which parents had been exposed and whether such warnings had affected the plaintiffs’ behavior.”

Parents have channeled their grief and anger into political action. Linda Kaiser, a St. Louis mom who founded Parents for Window Blind Safety after her daughter Cheyenne was killed in her crib in 2002, has led the charge for safer products. In the absence of federal help, other parents have fought for window blind safety measures in state legislatures. Maryland and Washington State have enacted laws restricting the installation of corded blinds in day care centers.

Photo of Elliot Kaye

“I would feel like a failure … if we didn’t find a solution.”
– Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission

In California, where at least 75 children have been killed or injured by window blind cords, Assembly Member Susan Talamantes-Eggman, D-Stockton, recently introduced a bill that would prohibit the sale of many types of corded window coverings. It also would require others to have safety devices that make the cords inaccessible. The fatalities in California, more than twice the death toll in any other state, have spanned decades: from a San Rafael child who was strangled in her crib in 1982 to an 18-month-old infant in Yucca Valley who died during a family gathering in 2008, the same year a 16-month-old triplet was killed in his nursery in Tracy.

The window blinds issue, critics say, is emblematic of why the CPSC’s voluntary standard process needs to be reformed. CPSC monitors dozens of industry efforts every year to develop safety standards for products ranging from bassinets and cradles to trampolines and tree stands. But a Government Accountability Office report in 2014 singled out the “prolonged” standard-setting in window blinds as evidence that current laws and regulations may be hurting the agency’s ability to attack new consumer safety risks.

“The process works when industry really wants to solve the problem,” said Pamela Gilbert, a Washington lawyer and former executive director of the CPSC. Gilbert says that has not been the case with window blinds. “The industry has thought from the beginning that this is a parental supervision thing,” she said. Gilbert added that the industry position has been, “We are going to have cords. You have cords in blinds just like you have engines in cars. Parents should keep kids out of roads and out of window blinds. It is not our problem.”

Window cord hazards have been on the radar of the CPSC at least since the agency worked on its 1981 internal study, a “Special Report on Accidental Strangulations of Children under Five.” The investigation identified 41 deaths linked to drapery and blind cords dating to 1973. The report also cited window cords as the second-leading cause of strangulation deaths among children under five, calling it “a particularly insidious hazard.”

Other documents reviewed by FairWarning — after Onder obtained them through litigation and Freedom of Information Act requests — show that, in 1985, a “new project identification” team at CPSC found 35 additional deaths from cords from 1981 through 1984.

The deadly threat posed by window blind cords was a revelation to Shero, the mother in Tennessee. She had baby-proofed the family’s home against other childhood perils such as toxic chemicals, top-heavy furniture and electrical outlets. “It was a totally hidden hazard for me,” she said of the window-blind cords. Until her son, Colton, was killed, she said, “I had never heard of any child dying in that manner.”

Likewise, Chesshuwa Beckett, a high school teacher in Sacramento, Calif., was unaware of the deaths and injuries until her three-year-old daughter Voxie strangled on a cord in 2012 after being put down for an afternoon nap. Beckett figures that her daughter’s fascination with necklaces may have attracted her to the blind cords. “How could they not have done a better job to get this information out?” Beckett asked.

Photo of Pamela Gilbert

The industry position has been, “We are going to have cords. You have cords in blinds just like you have engines in cars. Parents should keep kids out of roads and out of window blinds. It is not our problem.”
– Pamela Gilbert, former executive director of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Becky Darko, 31, wasn’t even born when the CPSC started looking into the cord hazard. But she remembers the blood-curdling scream of her husband in 2010 when he found their daughter Daytona, 3, hanging by the neck in the window cords of an upstairs bedroom in their Great Falls, Mont., home. Her husband cut down the child by biting through the cords.

Darko also remembers a manager of their public housing complex telling her that it was “a freak accident” and would not happen again. But this January another toddler strangled to death in window cords in the same complex. “They pretty much put the blame on us … and did not care,” Darko said. “Now I feel like my daughter passed away for no reason.”

An initial solution devised in 1985 by the CPSC and the industry – a series of consumer alerts warning parents to keep cords out of the reach of children and keep furniture away from windows — reflected the Reagan administration’s disdain for government regulation. The industry began putting warning labels on the blinds. But the death toll continued to rise. Twenty-one children were fatally strangled by cords in 1992, versus 12 in 1985, according to Parents for Window Blind Safety.

In the mid-1990s, the industry set some voluntary product safety standards through the WCMA, under pressure from the Clinton Administration, which threatened to enact mandatory rules to make the blinds safe. The focus: eliminating looped pull cords, which form a natural noose and which had been a leading cause of deaths. A joint recall was initiated by the CPSC and the WCMA that covered millions of blinds. Consumers were instructed to cut the looped cords and tie tassels onto each end. The industry agreed to distribute free retrofit kits.

Ann Brown, then chairman of the CPSC, said in a news release that the collaborative effort “epitomizes how government and industry can work together to save lives.”

But the fix failed to stem the tragedies. The cut cords continued to tangle, knot and kill. Children also were strangled by the inner cords that hold together the slats in the blinds as well as by cords on roll-up and other shades.

So the industry revised its standard, over and over again. Between 1994 and 2012, the WCMA invoked the voluntary standards process at least a half-dozen times. Some changes, industry critics concede, saved lives. But the industry refused to banish cords, which consumer groups and increasingly, the CPSC staff, saw as the chief culprit. In some cases, critics argue, manufacturers exacerbated the risk by doing such things as increasing the number of pull cords to accommodate design changes to block sunlight.

“We moved forward slowly because we thought the fix would work. We couldn’t see into the future,” Brown, the former CPSC chairman, said in an interview with FairWarning. In retrospect, Brown says the agency should have eliminated corded blinds.

Photo of Betty Darko

“I feel like my daughter passed away for no reason.”
– Becky Darko, 31, whose daughter, Daytona, 3, was strangled by window cords in an upstairs bedroom in their Great Falls, Mont., home.

Along with changes in product design, the industry says a public education program it has sponsored since 1994 has mitigated the risks. The education effort is run by an industry-funded entity known as the Window Covering Safety Council, which like WCMA is operated out of Kellen Company offices in New York, and is headed by a former WCMA chief who is now Kellen’s chairman. The WCSC has a website that declares its mission as “educating Americans about potential window-cord hazards facing young children.” In a regulatory filing, “WCMA Response to Petition for Rulemaking,” the association said that its public education efforts in 2012 “reached an estimated audience of 1.18 billion” through the web and other media channels.

But walk into a big box store, and there’s little if any safety information in the window-covering section – an issue that Vasami says his industry is working on with retailers. To make older and recalled blinds safe, Vasami says, the WCSC distributes more than 100,000 retrofit kits a year. But even at that rate, after 20 years, the total is but a small fraction of the estimated 800 million window coverings installed in American homes. “The education piece is a continuing challenge. You constantly have new young parents and new caregivers coming into the marketplace,” Vasami said. “We need to keep updating the message.”

The hopes of safety advocates were raised in 2010, when regulators from Canada and Europe joined the U.S. in a push for safer blinds, and WCMA announced that it would undertake a “comprehensive revision” of the standard. A 30-person task force was formed to draw up new guidelines; consumer groups were included in the process for the first time. Vasami promised delivery of a draft “by the end of National Window Covering Safety Month in October 2011.”

The industry initially agreed to include in the standard a requirement that pull cords be tested to see whether they were susceptible to wrapping around the necks of small children. That suggested to the consumer groups that the industry was serious about eliminating cords. A WCMA technical committee even conducted its own testing of the cords’ wrap-around potential. But its findings were never disclosed, and the testing requirement was dropped from consideration. The consumer groups quit the process, feeling they had been duped.

The final version of the newly revised standard confirmed their suspicions. Among the highlights: a new warning label and pictograms on the outside of product packaging. Among the omissions: a long-time CPSC staff recommendation to limit the length of accessible operating cords to the neck circumference of a young child, which the industry said was technically impossible.

“It was really a slap in the face to everybody,” said Carol Pollack-Nelson, a safety consultant and former CPSC psychologist who was part of the group seeking more stringent standards. “That is when we realized – and when the commission realized – that nothing was ever going to get done voluntarily.” WCMA later criticized the consumer groups in a filing with the CPSC for “their lack of sincerity in participating in a truly collaborative process.”

The WCMA added, in the statement to FairWarning, that the consumer groups “came to the standard-setting process intent on banning all corded window blinds regardless of whether feasible and less costly alternatives exist.”

Last October, in a move reflecting regulators’ frustration with voluntary standards, the CPSC, led by Kaye, voted unanimously to issue a notice that could lead to a mandatory federal rule. The agency is seeking public comment until June 1 about the merits of a window-covering rule and the dangers cords pose. It likely would take several years, however, for any mandatory rule to go into effect.

In his interview with FairWarning, Kaye said the industry has had more than enough time to develop safe alternatives. He recalls the day in March 2014, when he was nominated by President Obama to lead the agency. That same day news broke of a two-year-old boy in Maryland who died entangled in the cord of a “child safe” window shade — one of four children in a three-week span to be killed by window covering cords. “As a parent … something clicked inside of me,” Kaye said. “I just felt this can’t go on anymore.”

Danger From Window Blind Cords

Window blinds with inner cord loop
Risks stem from the pair of tilt cords that maneuver the slats of the blind. Also, looped inner cords, which can form a noose when a safety stop is improperly positioned, pose a strangulation hazard. (Photos courtesy of Parents for Window Blind Safety.)
Window blinds with tilt wand
A tilt “wand” is considered safer than tilt cords for adjusting slats in a window blind. But wands are not required by the voluntary industry standard. This blind also uses individual pull cords, which are considered safer than looped cords. But individual cords, safety advocates say, continue to present a strangulation risk.
Window blinds with breakaway cord joiners
This blind joins multiple pull cords, enabling the blind to be raised and lowered evenly. But consumer groups say the multiple cords create a dangerous new loop and other hazards. The current voluntary standard permits this design if it has a “breakaway” feature that releases the knotted cords when pressure is applied.
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20 comments to “Years of Talking, Kids Still Dying”

  1. C. Clark

    When I moved into my condo 20 years ago, I cut all the loops & shortened those cords. I have little dogs & didn’t want them to get hung up on them.
    Why can’t there be very visible warnings on the boxes?
    Lately, I’ve heard that the blinds can be manufactured without the cords.
    I’m so very sorry for the people who lost their babies. That never should have happened.

  2. robert nevins

    Robert L Nevins Sr. Aug.4,2016
    The manufacturers of corded blinds and shades will never give up corded window covering products. The cords are able to elevate shades and blinds to . much higher then any person can reach. So the advocates and mothers who advocate cordless blinds and shades unless their at least 6 ft tall cannot push a blind high enough to fully cover a window.. I just visited the most popular window covering company store. I asked what happens when a homeowner (women) cannot reach high enough to cover the window.
    Sales persons response “we will not sell it to the customer”.. I said what if I really want the cordless blind. . Salesperson , response we have a sky light pole for $ 92.00.

    Since retiring from the N.Y.City Fire Dept. . I have two main goals stopping the strangulation deaths and injuries to infants and children. and the second is I think I have a patent and a system for changing the global energy picture as well as the pollution problem.

    Robert L Nevins Ret. N. City Firefighter.

  3. robert nevins

    P.S. put up some money together we will sue and win.

    Guilty parties.= Window Covering manufacturers Association, , Consumer Product Safety Commission .and the and The Council For Window Blind Safety..

    Robert L Nevis still a retired N.Y.City Firefighter.

  4. robert nevins

    You just indicated this COMMMENT was stated before.. Just like the manufacturers you cant tell the difference from one of my comments from another.ret. .N.Y.City Firefighterv.

  5. robert nevins

    I requested the latest half a dozen infant and child obituaries from the Consumer Product Safety Commission more then sixty days ago.. I have received no response as yet.
    The manufacturers of the infant and child products that are involved in the strangulation
    deaths of the infants and children must give their permission to print or disclose their names to the global public. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission
    these manufacturers are covered under the right to privacy law. No permission no disclosure .If the dead child has a right to privacy, so does the manufacturer. So
    sayeth the Consumer Product Safety Commission who ignores the Freedom of Information Act, Laws
    Robert Nevins Unretired N.Y.City Firefighter

  6. robert nevins

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, The Window Covering Safety Council, and The Window Manufacturing Association are the three entities most responsible for hundreds of infant and child strangulation deaths in blind cords . I presented all three with patented solutions , in 1998,2002 and recently in 2010 .The latest 2010 patent is I believe infant and child strangulation proof. No takers… No regulations only Infant Strangulations. Bob Nevins N.Y.City Firefighter.

  7. Robert Nevins

    You have seen my name in the comments. Since 1998 I have given the unholy three ,,W.C.M.A. , The C.P.S.C. ,and the Window Blind Safety Council, Patented solutions to 43 years of infant and child blind cord strangulation deaths. The consumer product safety commissions answer to me is “WE DONT ENDORSE PRODUCTS “. The manufacturers take their cues from the C..P.S.C. ” No regulations only strangulations”
    My latest patent I believe makes blind cord clutches which have to use loop cords (or
    nooses ) safe and which is infant and child strangulation proof ,has been turned down by all of the entities involved in infant and child strangulation deaths in blind cords.
    Regulations come about for one reason and that is failure to voluntarily comply..
    We all know right from wrong . Can you imagine a younger sister or brother or a teen aged
    baby sitter finding an infant or a small child hanging by its neck in a window blind cord strangled to death.. The manufacturers, ,the wholesalers the retailers absolutely do not care. .The Consumer Product Safety Commission have kept from me for sixteen years
    the names of the manufacturers and the product involved in the babies unnecessary or preventable deaths. I believe the reason for this is Some companies might have a dozen or more strangulation deaths with the same product . The Consumer Product Safety Commission has their own Freedom of Information Act which supersedes the
    U.S.Governments Freedom Of Information Act.. I believe people who are paid to protect the American public and they do not ,should serve time in prison for infant and child
    Death By Inaction. Infant and child strangulation deaths up to June , 2016. five American babies, one Canadian or British baby..
    . Robert Nevins Un retired N.Y.City Firefighter

  8. Robert l nevins

    I have commented on fair Warnings web page several times now. I want to find out if anyone at all is reading or listening So here is what I would like you to do .Because I have been advocating for the removal of single tasseled cords in window blinds which have strangled numerous infants and children to death. Please do the following.
    Write or call the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at 4330 East West Highway
    Bethesda Md. 20814 and ask for I.D.I. ( in depth Investigative report ) number
    120727CCC2904. Mention your request is via The Freedom Of Information Act . You will get all of the information on the strangulation death of a 3 year old female baby. in a single tassel. The manufacturer and the product will be censored out of the report .this is to keep this information from the public.. So you will continue to buy this deadly product . Bob Nevins Retired N.Y.City Firefighter and Raymond Nevins And Edward Nevins ,and John Nevins and George Nevins ,my brothers and my father all very proud N. Y .City Firefighters. and a special tribute to my nephew Gerard Nevins murdered at the World Trade Center …

  9. Robert l nevins

    A recent infant blind cord strangulation death in 2014 can be attributed to the age of the blind it was purchased in 2011, so much for old blinds being the cause of all infant and child strangulation deaths The main reason for the 43 consecutive years of infant and blind cord strangulation deaths in my opinion, is the dereliction of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate, the Window Covering Manufacturers
    Association. and the alleged Council For Window Blind Safety who ,s members are all
    Window Covering Manufacturers Associates. The fox is guarding the henhouse .
    One of the C.P.S.C. Commissioners recently wrote an article which states ” The strangulation deaths are a little over 1 child per one hundred million window blinds. I interpreted that to mean that’s a pretty good record . and it would be ,if you were talking about dead fish.
    There are a billion blinds in American homes , that figure converts to 10 infant and child strangulation deaths per year, throw in a few brain dead infants and you get an average
    12 or more a year. The W.C.M.A. and the Blind Cord Safety Council and the Consumer Product Safety Commission all recommend very strongly, and this recommendation has
    been duplicated over and over again by all the entities involved and are aware of infant and child, blind cord strangulations. For many ,many years you have been told to write to or phone the Blind Cord Safety Council and request their safety packet on how to make blind cords, safe, it gives directions on how to cut the loop cord involved in numerous infant and child strangulations into two straight cords, the safety packet has two tassels ,and your directed to tie them at the bottom of the two single cords. When you do this you are taking a single infant and child strangulation trap and converting it into two infant and child strangulation traps. Single tassel cords are responsible for numerous infant and child strangulation deaths, during the past 20 years. The looped cord strangulation deaths are falling rapidly because, they are well known to the global public. at the same time the tasseled, corded, blind, can be found everywhere in almost every store and lumberyard.. The blind Cord Safety Council has distributed millions of these safety packets and has disseminated this alleged safety advice to
    millions of the global public. Single and double tasseled blinds will easily become the leading cause of infant and child unnecessary, blind cord , strangulation deaths. With the named enclosed companies promoting these deadly corded blinds .

    Corded blinds can be made safe Robert L Nevins retired N. Y. City Firefighter.
    enclosed companies ,promoting these products

    Bob Nevins retired N.Y.City Firefighter.

  10. Robert l nevins

    I have been saying it for 25years. Try reading the differences. between messages.
    The C.P.S.C. and the and the Window Covering Manufacturers have enough help they do not need yours Your interview with C.P.S. Commissioner Kaye he stated he will change things that was 2 years and 14 infant or child strangulation deaths ago.
    I wish you had asked Commissioner Brown who gave her the cords stops ,that are now on millions of blinds that prevent reverse cord strangulation, and have stopped dozens
    of blind cord strangulation deaths .
    I think you should partner with me in a $25,000.000.00 law suit against all of the guilty
    parties in 43 consecutive years of infant and child blind cord strangulation deaths .
    These 3 parties are. The Window Covering Manufacturers Association. The Blind Cord Safety Council, and worst of all the derelict .U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
    actually it is the commissioners . You put up the money .I will put up the research, a U.S Patents,

  11. Robert l nevins

    To Doug Baldwin
    I believe I have made it clear that the information you want is the U. S. Consumer Product I.D.I. reports .In Depth Investigative Reports, they contain age of infant or child, height ,weight, circumstances surrounding the in my opinion unnecessary or preventable
    corded window covering infant or child blind cord strangulation death. Not all of the children die, Some are left without sight or hearing or are brain dead. or all three..
    Because of my attempts to warn the public in the U.S. United Kingdom , Canada. etc.
    and my use of C.P.S.C. documented information. The Consumer Product Safety Commission ,has redacted and censored out the following from my requested FOIA reports., the ,manufacturers name and the product involved in the infant or child strangulation death. They claim the Window Covering Manufacturers are entitled to privacy. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has made up their own Freedom Of Information Act, which supersedes the United States of America, Freedom of Information Act.. The dead hanging victims are
    entitled to privacy but the manufacturers and their unsafe, corded products are not. So far, I am back to 2005 redactions and censorship of my F.O.I.A. requests. That, is 11 years.
    The reason for the redactions and censorship by the Consumer Product Safety Commission is in Mr Schmitts excellent report in a previous Fair Warning Column.
    The big three window covering manufacturers and the huge amounts of money they have made have not been directed toward infant and child window blind cord safety.
    Instead these companies have run up huge numbers of infant and child unsafe blind cord strangulation deaths. I need to know how many times has a unsafe product strangled an infant or child to death and what was the product involved. The conclusion I want to reach is how many times has the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission consciously ,allowed the same manufacturer and the same deadly products for 43
    consecutive years without doing anything to protect the infants and children from unnecessary and preventable blind cord strangulation deaths.. Bob Nevins

  12. Robert l nevins

    I have asked you (Fair Warning ) what is moderation? What is in my comments is the truth, how do you moderate the truth. The hundreds of infant and child strangulation deaths in blind cords occur in every country selling these blinds. Australia, Canada,
    the United Kingdom, New Zealand. Has Fair Warning done any thing to stop or prevent these unnecessary and preventable strangulation deaths. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission , for the past 43 years could have told the Window Covering Manufacturers Association at any time.1974, 1980,1990 ,2000, 2010. any year since 1973. “fix the corded window blinds and shades or we will shut you down permanently.’
    You had no trouble in attacking with, good reason, Bucky Balls and Lumber Liquidators.
    I do not believe either one had an infant death .You can operate on a body that is breathing and fix it. You cannot do the same on a corpse.

    Robert Nevins retired N. Y. City Firefighter.

  13. Robert l nevins


    To Doug Baldwin
    The best and most informative place to look for infant and child unnecessary and preventable window cord strangulation deaths is simply request a
    hundred or so I.D.I.s from the U.S.Consumer Product (alleged) Safety Commission
    I.D.I. is short for In Depth Investigation report. I have been reading them for more then 20 years. Mr Schmitts story is very well done .What is not in the story is the other parties.
    who are responsible for these infant and child, blind cord, strangulation deaths
    They are the U.S.Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Window Covering Safety Council. All 3 of these entities received from me in 1999. Comprehensive information on 5 ways an infant or child can strangle to death in corded window covering
    I also sent them two drawings of how these strangulation deaths occurred ,I also sent them documented court cases from lawyers who were in lawsuits against the W.C.M.A.
    the dates on the law suits were 1987,1990 ,and 1994. The U.S.Consumer Product Safety
    Commission action was to make the cord warnings larger. .I also sent these three entities
    in 2000, 28 documented previous, strangulation death reports ,containing the babies ,sex, age, method of strangulation ,product involved and the manufacturer
    of the product . These deaths represented a small portion of the deaths betwenn1990 and 2000. Since receiving this letter ,the U .S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
    has redacted and censored my requested I.D.I.s..They have removed the manufacturers name and the product involved in the infant or child strangulation death, The C.P.S.C has also blacked out the names that appear in the investigative photos of the death scene.
    The product is usually shown with the name of the product on the blind housing. I told they have no right to do this. Their reply, the manufacturer has a right to privacy.
    As far as the Window Blind Safety Council goes, president Vasani has stated there is no one fix for the corded window covering products. Mr Vasani is right there is no 1 fix for the 5 strangulation traps in corded window blinds and shades. I also believe the Window Blind Safety Council has been promoting bogus information with their safety packet
    I would repeat it here but ,the W.C.M.A, the C.P.S.C. and the Blind Cord Safety Council have heard it a thousand times.
    Robert L Nevins Ret. N.Y. City Firefighter.

  14. Robert l nevins

    I am a retired N.Y.City Firefighter, . in 1999 16 years ago, the Window Covering Manufacturers, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Council For Window Blind Safety ,as well as other window blind entities, were given, comprehensive information and illustrations and drawings showing 5 ways an infant or child strangles to death in window blind cords . I also listed 28 examples of these unnecessary and preventable infant and child strangulation deaths in blind cords. I listed the method of strangulation, the company who manufactured the product , and the product involved in the infant or child strangulation death. These strangulation deaths were taken directly from the comprehensive investigative reports that the Consumer Product Safety Commission requires after an injury or strangulation death to an infant or child…
    This report is called an I.D.I. (In Depth Investigative ) report it contains police ,fire dept, ambulance and hospital reports of everyone involved in the life saving efforts of the victims. It also contains photos, and pictorial evidence of the death scenes as well as pictures of the infant or child strangulation victim . You can find 43 consecutive years of
    of C.P.S.C. infant and child obituaries . In 2000 ,I gave C.P.S.C. compliance officer, Miss Raucschwalbe a solution to reverse cord infant and child blind cord strangulations, this is one of the 5 strangulation traps given to all the involved entities, back in 1999
    Miss Rauschwalbe went to C.P.S.C Commissioner Brown and together they implemented my solution to reverse cord strangulations ..My solution came from reading numerous I.D.I.s and examining photo evidence of the death scene ,the simple answer was in many of the photographs. The simple answer was a 1/4 round plastic bead with a cord hole in it . slide the bead up to the cord lock and secure it no more then 2 inches below the cord lock.22 of these plastic beads could have prevented 11 infant. or child blind cord strangulation deaths. My beads were changed to plastic loops and can be found on million of window blinds all over the world. These beads are the only infant and child safety improvements in window blinds in 43 years
    In 2002 C.P.S.C. was given my patent number 6,463,987 to evaluate, the evaluation was prejudiced and I let C.P.S.C. know it . My patent solutions to make vertical and horizontal blinds safe, were I believe evaluated with prejudiced , I knew this right away
    because , I had made a one sided loop for vertical blinds , and a cord storing plastic
    enclosed rectangular envelope for storing horizontal blind cords
    All mfrs. and all C.P.S. C. personal just about everybody who owns blinds advocates the placing blind cords as high as possible ,out of the reach of infants and children.
    This is a made very clear in my patent, but it is never mentioned in the C.P.S.C. evaluations. C.P.S.C was very able to tell me ( C.P.S.C. does not endorse products.) my own opinion is ( C.P.S.C. does not endorse Safe products) .

  15. Jason Burzynski

    One of the first things we did before bringing our firstborn baby home during the childproofing frenzy, was tie the cords into a loop and hang that loop off of the bar. That way it wasn’t dangling yet it was still usable by those who could reach it. Is it a 100% effective way of risk abatement? No, but education on this risk is important and in my opinion effective. Just like stairs can pose a risk without a baby gate preventing access.

    Where I was educated on this risk… I don’t recall. It is tragic to see this is still happening.

  16. Susan Wunderlick

    @Matthew Mabey
    I can’t believe you can’t tell how kids can strangle on the big box blinds. I have been down the aisles in the stores and the displays have tangled cords all over in them. If the displays tangle, then obviously the blinds in the consumers home will tangle and reform the loop in the cord. Isn’t that it was trying to prevent in the first place? Besides, what prevents a kid from wrapping it around their neck while playing? To me, the blinds today look worse then they did when I was younger. There are more cords on them now than before. More chance for them to get tangled up. Why can’t we just go back to simplicity?

    I don’t think the folks are asking for zero risk. Even without cords, someone is bound to get their head conked with a blind falling on it due to a bracket falling off the window. It reads that they are asking for zero strangulation risk. That is something I think can be achieved.

    And please, the blind companies are crying about business being killed? Wow. As if no one is ever going to buy another blind again. Come on. Look at light bulbs. We transitioned just fine. They were completely redesigned and the companies flipped. No the prices didn’t skyrocket like they were claiming they would. Are they more expensive, ya but they last longer and they are made better.

  17. Matthew Mabey

    This article left me wondering: how much risk is there from the blinds I would buy from a “big box” store today as compared to the risk from older blinds that date from before the current standards. Those present two very different problems that will have very different solutions. Are those ~10 children per year being killed by new blinds or old blinds?

    I completely disagree with the assertion that there isn’t information in the blinds section of the store about the hazards. The warnings are featured very prominently on each and every product package. I actually think that excessive (and often silly) hazard messaging has trained consumers to tune out hazard messages.

    As I look at a 3 year old set of blinds in my office window, I still can’t figure out how children strangle themselves in the designs sold for the past few years. This is what makes me think that the main problem is old blinds. Regardless, more details regarding the nature of the hazard and less hyperbolic vilifying would have made for a better article.

    While the idea of zero risk has been sold as a desirable goal to the American public, there is no such thing as zero risk and completely banning corded blinds doesn’t seem like a proportional solution.

  18. jaycee luna

    How about just making the stupid things go up and down by a tiny motor and just have a remote to trigger the blinds? If I can come up with that in a few seconds then obviously they have people who are worse off then being slow or special needs working for them…this is just as much of a hazard as any child’s or baby furniture that doesn’t work properly and results in death or harm to a child just like those other children’s products that get recalled these should be recalled too

  19. Doug Baldwin

    Nice piece. We would have loved to have had this piece 3-4 years ago when we really began similar research and there was nothing like this already packaged and complete out there. I have worked on maybe six such cases as a private investigator on behalf of attorneys in several states representing the parents of strangled children. In each case, my job was to take the scant information that existed as to the origin of the blind in question and to do whatever was necessary to trace it back and determine and find the original manufacturer and original retailer so they could be sued. the date of manufacture and retail sale had some significance to the historical status of legal notice of potential hazard as well, so that needed proof. Tracing blinds is difficult. Most of these blinds were cheap and plentiful and people just didn’t remember where they got them, they shopped here and there, and most often the blinds on my cases, as assigned to me (meaning they were problems to trace), had been installed a decade or more earlier by someone else and the house rerented or resold many times since then. Usually, there were no manufacturing marks, often just generic code or some generic name. And, when I did find original retailers or manufacturers, they were usually now out of business with no records of insurance, distributors, manufacturers. So, a lot of it ended in dead ends. Sometimes we knew, but proof was impossible. Indeed, conversations with my client attorneys found that the law suit barriers here, including lack of clear manufacture requirements, were tough enough to keep the status quo in place….which is one of the lessons of the article, the difficulty overturning the status quo. Whatever you may think of plaintiff attorneys, sometimes they can create motivation to deal with problems that otherwise involved persons are determined to ignore as long as possible. So, with blinds, class actions have never really gotten off the ground, and case after case is ultimately dropped by plaintiff attorneys, or not taken on, because its deemed unwinnable. Thus, as the article reviews, the most precious things on earth, children, die horribly, suddenly, and nothing…apparently….can be done to lessen the occurrences here, which are deemed legally at present to be more or less part of how life must be if you want blinds.

    Oh, and PS, Congrats to Fair Warning on its Five Year Anniversary bringing useful information to people who need it.

  20. Jessie Hawk

    What a great article. When past and current members of the CPSC even think a federal mandate needs to be done then maybe the WCMA will realize that voluntary standards do not work, especially when all they care about are profits.

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