Must-Read Guide to Buying Window Coverings

Steps you should take to avoid putting your little ones at risk.
Roman shades recall

When shopping for window coverings that will go in a home with small children in it, the one sure way to keep little ones safe is to go cordless.

Given the number of deaths of infants and toddlers who strangled in the cords of blinds and shades, it's the only option recommended by the industry and by safety advocates. About 500 serious injuries and deaths have been documented over the past decade or so.

"There are no acceptable alternatives with cords at this point," says Linda Kaiser, who founded Parents for Window Blind Safety after one her toddler twins was strangled.

Tens of millions of window coverings have been recalled in recent years, including two unprecedented industry-wide recalls, over concerns that infants and toddlers are at risk of strangulation.

The window covering industry has been offering retrofit kits to help make existing corded blinds and shades safer, but every model that has a looped cord carried the risk of turning into a deadly noose. Nearly every shade made more than a decade ago is likely to have at least the dangerous inner cord -- and many of those still for sale today have them too.

"There are millions of products on store shelves that are just as dangerous as they were 10 years ago," Kaiser said.

If you're not going to replace all your blinds, then retrofitting needs to be done to window coverings. For some models it's a relatively simple and effective process, such as removing the cords from Roman shades and holding them in place with clips.

The kits that are provided for free by the industry, which involve clipping loops in cords or mounting a tension device to a wall to prevent the danger of sagging cords, might lessen the danger, but Kaiser's group believes still leaves considerable risk.

Scott Wolfson, spokesman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, said progress has been made and more needs to be.

"We're trying to mitigate the hazard as best we can going backwards and eliminate the risk going forward," said

The government, safety advocates, and the industry have been working to reach a consensus on rules that would dictate how shades and blinds will be made so that even corded models would be safer, by preventing access to the cords.

"We are not pushing for cordless (blinds) across all revisions to the standards," Wolfson said. "We want this industry to survive and to also have safer products that don't have exposed cord loops."

It is easier today to find cordless options. In fact, most of the major manufacturers, including Levolor, Hunter Douglas, and Bali, offer a considerable number of cordless options.

Some use a wand rather than a cord or chain to open and close or to change the position of the slats on blinds. Others are spring-loaded and go up and down when the bottom rail is pulled. Some Roman shades come with an option to remove the cords and instead use clips to hold the shades open.

Compared side by side with similar corded models, cordless can cost more, although there are some cordless window coverings now on the low end of the price spectrum. They can also be less convenient to use.

Parents for Window Blind Safety warns that some supposedly cordless Roman blinds still have dangerous cords in the rear, so check out the blinds before buying them to make sure they do not have any visible cords or chains.

The group also warns that even blinds with safety features and modifications, including breakaway cords, shortened cords, wind-up devices, and tension devices, cannot be relied upon to provide a safe environment for a young child. In a series of videos (http://www.youtube.com/user/pfwbs), Parents for Window Blind Safety graphically demonstrates how easily each of those methods can fail, particularly when a toddler is involved. Even a single cord, absent the loop normally associated with the deaths, is shown turning deadly.

Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.

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