Campaign seeks to help consumers pick safe blinds, shades

A label warns of strangulation risks from mini blind cords.

WASHINGTON — Trying to figure out which window blinds or shades are safe to buy for homes with young children?

The industry launched a campaign last week that encourages companies to send their products to a third-party testing facility to determine whether they should be used in homes with little ones. If so, they would get a “Certified Best For Kids” label, a move that was welcomed by Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Elliot Kaye.

The problem with many blinds and shades has long been the cords used to raise and lower them, and the strangulation risk they can pose to children. Safety officials say about 184 infants and young children died from strangling in window cords between 1996 and 2012.

The campaign by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association would be voluntary.

Kaye said in a statement that an agency priority is to end the decades-long cycle of a child dying nearly every month from strangulation in a window-covering cord.

“Having a new label that better informs parents about blinds and shades that are safer for children is a positive step,” said Kaye. But he said it should be part of a broader effort to move away from the sale of blinds and shades that have accessible cords.

Cordless window coverings are on the market but usually cost more.

WCMA Executive Director Ralph Vasami said the idea behind the testing and labeling program is to help provide “clarity to consumers and retailers.”

Under the current voluntary industry standard, blinds and shades with cords are supposed to carry an “entrapment” risk warning. But the industry says some products on market shelves carry warning labels but shouldn’t, such as blinds without an outside pull cord but with accessible inner cords that can’t be used to create a noose-like loop that a child could strangle on.

For a time, as the program is phased in, it could be possible to see the old “entrapment risk” labels on a blind, along with the new “Best For Kids” label. Eventually, though, the old label would be replaced.