Last year Erica Thomas' three year old son Mac was strangled to death in his bedroom by a cord from a Roman shade.
"What I was told by the police was that in all likelihood Mac had gone to look out the window overnight while the rest of the family was sleeping, probably parted the shade and the cord and his head accidentally slipped through."
Like most parents, Erica and her husband — a U.S. army doctor — had been diligent about child safety proofing their home.
"What never occurred to me was that there were cords running behind those blinds," she said.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 332 children were strangled by window cords over the last 30 years. That's about one child a month.
Critics say the CPSC could have done more, but didn't. They say the blame goes back to laws implemented in the business-friendly Reagan Administration. Those laws allowed companies to defer making changes to harmful products while they were voluntarily developing new standards.
Instead of making cordless blinds exclusively, which would have cost millions in manufacturing costs, window covering companies instead launched education campaigns. The result: no reduction in the number of child deaths.
"Their education campaigns have been confusing. They've been halfhearted at best, and their latest attempt is no more than what another advocacy group has been already doing for more than a decade," Elliot Kaye said.
Kaye is the current chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He says it's time for mandatory standards across the board.
"I feel like it's reached a point where we need a mandatory standard, because the CPSC staff has tried to work more than a decade — probably about two decades — with industry to solve this problem," Kaye said. "And industry is just not doing what's necessary to prevent families from having to go through these awful tragedies."
The CPSC will make public its proposed mandatory standards in the next six months, but it expects the window covering industry will fight them.
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