Ban window blinds with accessible cords to protect children, experts say

Despite safety improvements, fatal accidents linked to children becoming entangled in window blind cords and chains continue to occur, say researchers

Window blinds with accessible cords or chains should be banned, say researchers, as figures show children continue to die from strangulation despite improvements in safety.

The team say that on average about one child a month in the US has a fatal accident, typically after becoming entangled in cords or chains, and many more are injured.

Kids live in a world designed by adults, for the convenience of adults, and child safety is all to often an afterthought, said Dr Gary Smith, co-author of the study from the research institute at the Nationwide Childrens Hospital in Ohio.

Writing in the journal Pediatrics, a team from the US Child Injury Prevention Alliance, the Ohio State University and the research institute at the Nationwide Childrens Hospital, describe how they analysed data on injuries collected through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System a watchdog scheme that monitors injuries arising from consumer products.

The data is based on figures from 100 accident and emergency departments across the US, which were then used to make national estimates.

The results reveal that between 1990 and 2015 there were almost 17,000 injuries relating to window blinds or shades among children under the age of six, with the vast majority taking place at home. Being struck or cut were the most common types of injury, and more than 93% of all injuries were treated and the child sent home from the emergency department.

But not all injuries were minor. There were 271 deaths related to blinds over the 26-year period, 94% of which were a result of children becoming entangled in cords or chains.

The team add that the figures are likely to be an underestimate of injuries and fatalities, since they only include incidents which involved a trip to A&E.

Information from case reports offered further insights, with about two-thirds of the cases scrutinised involving children left unsupervised for under 10 minutes.

These things happen quickly, said Smith, adding that a safe environment was the only way to prevent such incidents.

The authors stress that accidents typically involve toddlers who are not yet at an age to understand the risks, or to free themselves of cords. Window blind strangulation incidents can be fatal within minutes and can occur silently, they warn.

While they add that current US standards mean there are gadgets to make cords safe, such as cord stops and tension devices, the authors say fatal accidents still happen, and call for a ban on blinds with accessible cords or chains to remove the risk of strangulation. Earlier this year the US Window Covering Manufacturers Association backed a proposal for off the shelf blinds to be cordless.

Frankly enough is enough, kids are dying, said Smith,. We are at a watershed moment where we have to make this decision and it is simply, to me, unconscionable that we would continue to stand by, allow children to die, and simply say, well, [theres] nothing we can do about it.

Sheila Merrill, a public health adviser at the UKs Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said that while there was no system for collecting similar injury data in Britain, figures collated by the charity suggest that at least 32 children have died since 1999, and 21 since 2010, as a result of accidents with blinds.

That is probably not the true figure, theres probably more children out there that have died, she said, but added that there appears to have been a decline in deaths.

Merrill said that the charity did not back a ban on blinds with cords or chains, pointing out that since 2014 EU regulations have meant that blinds either have to have no accessible cords, or come with safety devices such as cords that break under pressure.

But, Merrill added, there are likely to be many homes with old-fashioned blinds that could pose a hazard. If nothing else, replace the blind in your childs bedroom with a blind that is cordless, she said.

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