An account in The Oregonian this week of a bereaved mother suing both a property management company and a window blind manufacturer in the wake of the death of her 3-year-old daughter is drawing attention to yet another preventable household safety hazard.
According to the newspaper, the toddler was visiting a family friend with her mother in February 2015 “when she became entangled in a dangling cord.” The girl’s mother “was in the same room with her, but hadn’t realized what was happening until it was too late, said a lawyer for the estate.” The suit targets both the property management company that ran the apartment complex in Clackamas, and “blind manufacturer Newell Window Furnishings for allegedly allowing cords longer than 7-1/4 inches to hang from the window covering at the apartment complex” the newspaper reports. That length is the standard recommended by Parents for Window Blind Safety and other advocacy groups.
What is particularly striking about this case is the revelation that the management company allegedly failed “to remove dangerous cords from the apartment even after recalls and retrofitting efforts initiated by blinds makers in 1994 and again in 2000.” One has to ask, however, if the industry has been aware of this critical safety issue for more than 20 years, why are blinds with dangerously long cords still in apartments and homes anywhere?
That question is especially relevant since, according to The Oregonian, citing Consumer Product Safety Commission figures, “at least 332 American children have died in the past three decades from cord strangulation… one child will typically die in the U.S. each month, according to the commission.”
The newspaper goes on to note that “many millions of blinds have been recalled over the years” but as a Portland attorney focusing on injuries to children I must question how effective this recall policy has actually been. If a child is dying somewhere in our country every month, and this rate of fatalities has not changed much over a 30 year period, then it seems reasonable to ask whether both the government and the industry are doing everything they should to stop this easily preventable form of death. It is especially surprising to learn that dangerous window blinds may still be installed in rental properties where one might think that local health and safety regulations would have addressed this issue by now. The lesson for all of us would seem that more pressure both on the industry and on our elected representatives is needed. In the meantime, these safety tips from SafeKids are a good place to start – regardless of whether or not small children live in your home.