It seems that parents can never let down their guard when it comes to the safety of their children. Being a parent brings many responsibilities, but health and safety issues in a child’s environment are at the top of the list of categories where parents need to focus most of their attention.
Simple household items and situations seem so harmless, but often right there in front of all of us is a tragedy waiting to happen. Recently in this column, we have explored the recall of several toys for children that have injured or killed young children. Today’s focus will be on those seemingly harmless window cords, the ones that open and shut our curtains, venetian blinds and other “window treatments,” a term in vogue for several years.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, www.cpsc.gov, is a great source of product-safety issues and recalls. In early October, they published a warning about window cord hazards. They report that from 1991 through 2004, about 200 children gad been strangled to death by window cords.
In deaths from outer cord strangulation, the victims ranged in age from 7 months to 6 years. For inner cords, the ones that run through the horizontal blinds, the age of deaths ranged from 9 months to 20 months, and often occurred when children were placed in cribs or playpens near windows. Most deaths were the result of the child being entangled in the outer pull cords. Ten percent of the deaths occurred when children became ensnared by the inner cords.
The CPSC, in concert with the Window Covering Safety Council, has designated October as “Window Covering Safety Month” to encourage parents to repair or replace window coverings bought before 2001.
The following steps can be used by Maine parents to help reduce strangulation hazards to young children:
. Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
. Keep all window cords out of the reach of children. Make sure that tasseled pull cords are short, and that continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall.
. To prevent inner cord hazards, lock the cords into position when lowering horizontal coverings or shades.
. For corded shades and draperies manufactured prior to 2001, repair them with retrofit cord repair devices, or replace the entire window covering with newer and safer coverings.
. Consider installing cordless window coverings in children’s playrooms and bedrooms.
. Never tie window blind cords or chains together because the knot creates a new loop in which the child could become entangled.
Also remember that long, dangling window cords and chains still pose a strangulation risk, as children can wrap the cord around their neck.
Two hundred deaths of children seems like a small number when compared to a population of more than 300 million Americans, but for the 200 families of these lost children, and the many more children who have been brain-damaged from lack of oxygen due to cord strangulation, the toll is too high. Just a few moments spent doing a household inventory of window coverings and simple remediation can greatly reduce this hazard.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT for Better Business Inc., Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit organization. An individual annual membership is $25; business memberships start at $125. For consumer help and information, write: Consumer Forum, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329.