PHILADELPHIA -- Most of us have window blinds in our home, and you've probably never considered that some of them are potentially dangerous, even deadly.
We're talking about the potential problem with window blinds that have exposed cords. While some retailers have stopped selling them all together, most have not and federal officials say the time has come.
In 2002, Nicci Walla was filming her children when she noticed her 4-year-old son, Gavin, in distress. He had gotten his neck stuck in the cords of a window blind and lost consciousness. While on the phone with 911, Gavin coughed and began breathing. He was okay.
But Erica and Stephen Thomas' 2-year-old son, Mac, did not survive a similar incident last year.
"I called 911. I started CPR. And I knew. I just knew. I was just screaming," Erica said.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that for almost 20 years, nearly one child has died every month from corded window blinds and hundreds more have been injured.
"They like pulling on them. And they pull on them and they wrap them around their necks, and that's what happens. And it's devastating," said CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye.
The CPSC's warning was released 30 years ago in 1985. Since then companies have made safety improvements to blinds with cords and eventually created blinds without cords.
The industry said these changes have led to a "substantially lower" number of fatalities and injuries. In fact, it said that recent numbers are half what the CPSC estimates.
The CPSC said the government cannot order a ban on exposed cords and the industry has not eliminated the risk. That risk to children is still there with the altered corded blinds that continue to dominate the market.
"They're just rolling the dice and taking what they can make in terms of profits. And in their mind, if a children, if a child dies that's probably the parents' fault," Kaye said.
The CPSC is calling for what it considers a safer standard. But the industry said its "current voluntary safety standard, adequately addresses the risk of strangulation" and since it went into effect in 2013 "...products have been required to include warning labels."
Linda Kaiser's one-year-old daughter was killed in 2002. Kaiser explained that she had moved the long pull cords out of her daughter's reach. But as she showed ABC's Brian Ross, Kaiser said little Cheyenne pulled out the blind's inner cord and created a loop.
"She put her head in like like this and strangled like that," she said.
Kaiser has formed "Parents for Window Blind Safety". She said the labels required after her daughter's death are confusing and are hard to tell which ones are safe and which ones are not.
Action News went to a couple stores with a mom looking for blinds for her young kids' rooms. We wanted to see how employees explained the products.
At Lowe's after she mentioned they were for a playroom the employee told her she should go with a cordless version.
But at Home Depot our mom is never told corded blinds can pose a danger.
Home Depot said it is beefing up signage and employee training. And since we began our investigation Home Depot and Lowe's have announced they will stop selling corded blinds in their stores by the end of 2018.
Walmart has also announced the 2018 goal for both in store and online.
Target and IKEA have already stopped selling corded blinds.
Just last week ABC News was given a release that states the Window Covering Manufacturers Association has begun the process of revising its safety standard. And last month the industry also launched the "best for kids" certification program to help consumers and retailers easily identify window covering products that are safe for infants and young children.
Consumer Product Safety Commission - Window Covering Information Center
American National Standard for Safety of Corded Window Covering Products
Window Covering Safety Council
Parents for Window Blind Safety
The Home Depot offers the largest selection of cordless window coverings of any retailer.
By the end of January, we will have affordable cordless blind options in all of our U.S. stores - including new choices at our opening price point. 100 percent of the corded blinds we purchase moving forward will have a break-away pull cord feature.
We will continue to expand our product line to provide even more options that are cordless or have inaccessible cords, and we're aggressively pursuing innovative technologies with the objective of eliminating corded blinds from our stores by the end of 2018.
Meanwhile, we'll continue to have frequent offers for free upgrades to cordless blinds throughout the year and we'll also provide educational information in our stores, on packaging, and online that helps consumers with children in their homes select the best option.
(Conshohocken, PA - October 1, 2015) IKEA US announces today that as of October 1, 2015, IKEA US stores will only sell window blinds and coverings with no cords or non-accessible cords. This announcement is part of the ongoing IKEA home safety program, Safer Homes Together, which focuses on educating customers about safety at home.
According to research by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 1996 and 2012, nearly one young child per month on average died from strangulation by window cords. These statistics make it evident that window blinds and coverings with exposed cords can be a hazard for young children.
"Product safety is the highest priority for IKEA, which is why we have been working to develop alternative solutions to exposed cords in window coverings. In 2012, IKEA made the commitment to only offer window blinds and coverings with no or non-accessible cords by January of 2016, and we're pleased to be able to announce that we've met this commitment," commented Heather Spatz, IKEA US Country Sales Manager. "IKEA is committed to working together with our customers to raise awareness of this important issue and to help families get the knowledge they need to ensure a safer everyday life at home."
As of January 1, 2016, all IKEA stores globally will also offer only cordless blinds or window coverings.
In an effort to prevent any blind or window covering cord mishaps, IKEA reminds customers to check their window coverings to ensure that they do not pose a strangulation risk to young children.
Eliminating blinds with cords that could form a loop from stores
The goal we've shared is to eliminate these products from our in-stock assortment by the end of 2018. In other words, we will no longer carry or stock these products in our stores.
The vast majority of blinds and shades we sell are sold in-store from our in-stock assortment. After 2018, these products may be available online for consumers who need this option.
As a retailer, we don't manufacture products, but we are committed to moving toward more innovative, affordable cordless blinds and shades so they are accessible to all customers, and we are working with manufacturers to create technology to make this possible. We believe current progress will allow for that within this timeframe (end of 2018). We will continue to work with the CPSC, Parents for Window Blind Safety, window covering manufacturers and other stakeholders in this combined effort to educate customers and drive development of innovative alternative products. If the technology is developed sooner, Lowe's will be ready to transition more quickly to these more innovative products.
Employee & Customer Education
As we make progress toward our 2018 goal, we will implement programs to drive customer awareness and simplify the blind and shade selection process.
In 2016 we expect to:
*Implement more extensive training for our sales associates to enable more robust and consistent customer education
*Add new in-store signage for this department to provide additional customer education
*Introduce new product displays that make it easier to choose blinds and shades that are recommended for homes with small children
This month (Oct. 2015) we began conducting refresher training with our sales associates focusing on benefits of cordless blinds and shades and guiding them to work closely with customers to understand their needs - including asking if small children live in or visit their home - and to suggest cordless products for customers who have households frequented by young children.
Additionally, cordless products that have received the Parents for Window Blind Safety seal of approval will now have that seal on packaging. Those products started shipping to our stores in July. Products that receive the new Window Covering Manufacturers Association "Best for Kids" certification will begin shipping to stores early next year. Since these are both new initiatives customers will start to see more consistent packaging as new replenishment product ships to stores, which should make it easier for customers with small children to identify cordless options.
Product safety is a top priority at Target and we communicated to the CPSC in November 2014 that we were making a commitment to becoming a cordless retailer. That transition was completed earlier this spring and the entire Target blinds assortment is now cordless.
Walmart is committed to its goal of offering for sale only cordless window covering products by the end of 2018, whether sold in store or online.
This is a complicated undertaking that will require working with our suppliers towards significant changes in the way window covering products are manufactured. We recently requested another meeting with the Chairman to update him on the substantial progress we have made to date, and to explain to him the work that is left to be done that makes the end of 2018 the earliest achievable goal.
We have communicated to the CPSC our desire to collaborate on a comprehensive campaign on corded window coverings to educate consumers with small children, including during our May meeting with the Chairman and our meeting with Commissioner Adler on October 20. We firmly believe a consumer education campaign (in-store, online and social media) is necessary and we remain eager to engage with the CPSC on this campaign as soon as possible.
CPSC pushes to eliminate potentially dangerous window blinds