Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) staff and industry recently analyzed fatal incidents involving young children and window covering cords. The study was done to better understand how to prevent these deaths and to determine the effectiveness of the voluntary safety standard for window covering cords.
The current voluntary safety standard for these products prohibits cord loops, restricts continuous loops and chains by requiring tension devices, and requires prevention of loops in the inner cord of horizontal blinds.
To comply with the voluntary safety standard, the industry made three major design changes:
- It eliminated single-tassel loops from horizontal blind pull cords (these loops were strangulation hazards for young children—now, almost all cords end in two separate tassels)
- It supplies tension devices for all vertical blinds, which eliminates a free-hanging loop when installed
- It assembles all horizontal blinds with inner cord stops on the pull cords, to prevent the formation of a loop when pulling on the inner cords
To address the hazards present in existing blinds purchased before these actions, the industry offers consumers free repair kits to retrofit their horizontal or vertical blinds to conform with the latest voluntary safety standard.
To conduct the window cord covering study, CPSC reviewed investigations of 66 fatal incidents involving children and window covering cords that occurred between 1996 and 2002. (These incidents do not represent a statistical sample.) The hazard patterns were deduced from what was known about the product, the ligature (cord) marks on the victim, and information provided in police reports and investigator interviews with people familiar with the incidents. The victims ranged in age from 8 months to 78 months old.
CPSC identified three leading hazard scenarios and the associated window covering cord products. These included:
- Strangulation in a loop that was part of the product's configuration, such as single tassel cords in horizontal-type blinds and free hanging cord loops in vertical-type blinds. The majority of these incidents involved the continuous loop of vertical blinds or draperies.
- Strangulation in a loop formed by a cord that was knotted or tied up in some way. The majority of these incidents involved the pull cords of horizontal blinds.
- Strangulation in a loop formed in the inner cord of a horizontal blind.
Approximately sixty-one percent (40 out of 66) of the incidents involved products with a cord-lift control system (typically used with horizontal blinds). Thirty-six percent (24 out of 66) of the incidents involved products with a continuous-loop control system (typically used with vertical blinds and draperies).