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After Calls from Blumenthal & Klobuchar, Window Cord Manufacturers to Revise Safety Standards to Protect Children from Strangulation

Nearly every month for the past two decades, a child has died from strangulation by an accessible window covering cord

[WASHINGTON, DC] – After calls from U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) for stronger child safety protections, the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) today announced it will develop revised window covering safety standards to address the strangulation risk posed by accessible cords. Nearly every month for the past two decades, a child has died from strangulation by an accessible window covering cord. Last month, the Senators sent a letter calling on the WCMA to implement the strongest possible child safety protections and provide the protections families and children deserve.

“Today’s announcement is a meaningful step toward protecting children from the hidden dangers posed by window-covering cords,” Blumenthal said. “The tragic incidents we have seen across the country happen quickly and silently—as the young victims are unable to cry out for help. I’m heartened that manufacturers have decided to give these victims a voice by taking action to revise safety standards and prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. These deaths are preventable, and I will continue monitoring these developments to ensure we are doing everything we can to save children’s lives.”

“Consumers deserve to know that the products they use in their homes are safe for every member of their family,” said Klobuchar. “After tragic deaths of too many children, including seven in Minnesota, I am hopeful that the window covering industry will take this opportunity to develop standards that fully eliminate the strangulation threat to children.”

Senator Blumenthal previously called on the Department of Defense and Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect military families and families seeking federal housing assistance from this risk.  He also offered amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, which would require the removal and replacement of window coverings in military and public housing, respectively. The provision to protect military children from window cord coverings was included in the NDAA and passed the Senate earlier this month.

The full text of the Senators’ May 31 letter urging the WCMA to revise its safety standards is available below:

Dear Mr. Vasami:

We write regarding the Window Covering Manufacturers Association’s (WCMA) plans to again revise the voluntary corded window covering safety standard. Despite having been updated six times, the standard continues to present significant strangulation risks to infants and young children. We urge the association to act quickly to implement the strongest possible child safety protections.

We have long known that corded window coverings pose a danger to children. In fact, a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report from 1981 identified window cords as a particularly “insidious hazard.” Since then, progress has been slow and ineffective at reducing deaths and injuries. From 1996 to 2012, 184 children were strangled to death by a window cord and close to 1,600 more were severely injured according to CPSC data. The CPSC continues to report that a child dies nearly every month because they become tangled in an exposed window cord. This is unacceptable.

The current voluntary standard, ANSI/WCMA A100.1-2012, is in need of improvement. It has not been updated since 2012 and does not reflect recent changes in technology and the window covering marketplace. Most importantly, the current standard has not adequately addressed the strangulation hazard posed by pull cords. In January 2015, when the CPSC initiated an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to establish a mandatory standard for window coverings, it noted that this voluntary standard would not effectively address 57 percent of the window covering incidents investigated by CPSC staff.

In a petition filed with the CPSC in 2013, several prominent consumer safety organizations called for a standard that would transition the window covering industry away from corded coverings and toward safer, cordless alternatives. We are encouraged that several national retailers have since announced that they will no longer sell window coverings with accessible pull-cords and have effectively responded to strong consumer demand by providing low-cost cordless alternatives. These retailer initiatives to only sell cordless products should be viewed as a benchmark of industry progress and a reflection of the concerns of American consumers.

Consumers deserve to know that the products they use in their homes are safe for all members of their family. We urge you to use the current voluntary standard revision process to meaningfully advance the safety of window coverings and provide the protections families and children deserve. Please let us know when you anticipate the new voluntary standard to be completed and how you plan to comprehensively eliminate all hazards posed to infants and children by dangerous window covering cords. We respectfully request a response by June 30, 2016.