Window Blinds & Consumer Safety: Hidden Dangers of Home Goods
The Dangers of Mini Blinds
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), at least 332 children, most under the age of two, have died in incidents involving window blinds in the last 30 years.
The CPSC lists mini blinds as a leading “hidden hazard” in the home. The agency estimates that in the last 20 years, over 1,500 children were treated for injuries, many of them hospitalized.
It has been estimated that one child will die each month from the cords on window treatments.
The widespread dangers may be even more serious than previous thought. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that as many as half of all window blind deaths could go unreported.
Joe Lyon is a highly rated and experienced Ohio catastrophic injury and product liability injury attorney who is well versed in the science, economic impact, and human loss that such an injury or death has on the victim’s life and their family.
What are Mini Blinds?
Mini blinds are a type of window blind made of long, narrow slats held together by string. The slats are opened and closed by pulling a string. These include both horizontal and vertical blinds and draperies.
The dangers of the cords of mini blinds may not be obvious to parents until it is too late. The hazards are as simple as low hanging cords, within reach of children. Young children can become entangled in loops created by knots in the cord. Pull cords form natural traps for the heads and necks of children.
Why are Window Blinds Still Unsafe?
As early as 1981, the Consumer Product Safety Commission identified window blinds as a cause of strangulation deaths in children. The report cited window cords as the second-leading cause of strangulation deaths among children under five. They called them “a particularly insidious hazard.”
Yet, these problems still exist.
In the past few years, industry safety groups, major U.S. manufacturers, and retailers, have redesigned products and developed standards to reduce the risk of unnecessary deaths. New requirements include warning labels on packaging, and additional testing for potential hazards.
But the death toll continues to rise. Why?
One reason is many homes are still equipped with the old hazardous mini blinds, endangering young children. Child fatalities continue to be reported. Over 80 percent of incidents involve older products that do not conform to newer standards. Safety groups say any blinds purchased before 2001 should be replaced with newer, safer options.
Even blinds that meet certain safety standard can still pose a hazard if the cords are tied up or if the loose cords get entangled.
Industry Negligence Poses Threat to Consumers
For years, industry executives have acknowledged that window blinds with cords are a potentially deadly hazard. However, they have done little to solve any real problems. The industry’s “voluntary fixes” have merely created an illusion of safety.
Unfortunately, current laws and regulations regarding window blinds are quite limited in scope, and consumers are still at risk. Some states have recognized these dangers and have begun trying to protect those at risk.
For example, both Maryland and Washington have enacted laws restricting the installation of corded blinds in day care centers.
In California, a bill has been proposed to prohibit the sale of many types of corded window coverings.
Industry Dodges Responsibility for Potential Dangers
The dangers of window blinds is great enough to prompt the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to launch a month long campaign every October to educate consumers on the strangulation hazards.
But the U.S. window covering industry, including corporations such as Hunter Douglas, Springs Window Fashions, and Newell Rubbermaid, still sell dangerous products.
The industry has used lobbyists and public relations campaigns to resist any real change. The fact remains that new regulations hurt the industry’s profit margin. Corded blinds account for an estimated 75 percent of the industry’s roughly $2 billion in annual sales in the U.S.
Companies refuse to take responsibility for the hazardous products they sell. They admit that a danger exists, yet they continue to let the blame pass. Industry officials have even blamed safety problems on consumers who install or maintain their blinds improperly. They have also blamed parents who don’t do enough to keep their children out of harm’s way.
They have blamed retailers as well, saying it is their responsibility to warn customers of the dangers.
The companies have made unreasonable statements, like saying there is no need to ban blinds with cords because only a minority of American homes have young children in them.
Recalls of Dangerous Blinds
IKEA and Target, citing safety risks, have discontinued the sale of all window blinds with accessible cords. Reports say Home Depot, Walmart and Lowe’s have also announced they will stop selling similar products in the next few years.
In 2009, multiple companies recalled millions of units of dangerous Roman window blinds. That represents a small fraction of the estimated 800 million window coverings installed in American homes, but the initiative by the CPSC underscored the potential dangers of the products.
The safety agency has stated that it does not have the legal authority to ban window blinds with cords, though it strongly urges manufacturers to create a safer marketplace for consumers.
If you or a loved one suffered a product liability injury and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.
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