When childproofing a home, people generally think about covering outlets and gating stairs. Unfortunately, not enough people know about the dangers of window covering cords.
“Window blind cords are a hazard in plain sight,” said Linda Kaiser, Founder of Parents for Window Blind Safety (PFWBS). “Unfortunately, this hazard is often overlooked by even the most diligent parents.”
Over the past three decades, hundreds of children have died of strangulation caused by window blind cords—even if the cords were tied up out of reach or parents invested in window coverings that met industry safety standards.
A Hidden Hazard
Window blind cords are not a commonly discussed hazard, but they pose a major threat to young children. Window cords are listed as a top five hidden home hazard by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The CPSC estimates that, on average, one child dies every month from window cord strangulation. Other serious injuries result in brain damage so severe that children never walk or talk again, according to a video produced by PFWBS.
Between 1996 and 2012, nearly 1600 children suffered injuries after becoming tangled in window covering cords, resulting in just under 300 deaths. A chart of yearly incidents on PFWBS’ website shows a dramatic spike of accidents in 2009, nearly double other peak years. In a one-month span in 2014, four children around the country ranging in age from two years to six years old died from strangulation caused by window covering cords.
It Happens Fast
Death and serious injury from strangulation can happen fast. In many cases, parents or caregivers walk away for only a few moments or may even be in the same room when the tragedy occurs. Once a child has a window cord wrapped around their neck, permanent damage can be done in seconds.
During a strangulation situation:
- Children can lose consciousness in 15 seconds
- 1-2 minutes of strangulation can result in brain damage or death
In many situations, children are left hanging by the window cord after getting it tangled around their neck. In the majority of cases, the accident is quiet, leaving the caretaker unaware that there’s an issue until it’s too late.
Who Should Be Concerned?
Window cord accidents resulting in ER visits, hospitalization and death have been documented in children ranging from less than a year old up to 8 years old. Children under the age of four face the greatest risk of fatal injury, according to the CSPC.
Parents should be acutely aware of the risk posed by conventional window blinds and invest in cordless blinds for safety. Adults shin any home that a child lives in or frequents. Focus first on children’s bedrooms, playrooms and living areas where the child may be left alone, but it is advisable to make the switch on all windows.
“Parents for Window Blind Safety encourages parents to go cordless throughout their homes, starting first in their children’s bedrooms,” said Kaiser of PFWBS.
Retrofit safety kits are available for older blind designs, as well as other safety features, such as split cords (that don’t naturally form a loop), break away options and locks or wind-ups that shorten extra cord length. However, there are several reports of injuries and deaths even with these mechanisms in place.
October is National Window Covering Safety Awareness Month
October is National Window Covering Safety Month, a time to discuss and share tips that can help stop these easily preventable injuries and deaths.
Too many parents are unaware of the threat or believe they are taking appropriate measures by investing in optional safety features and putting cords out of reach. While these steps can help prevent accidents, they cannot guarantee full safety. Let’s use October to spread the message about window cord safety.