U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff is participating in voluntary standard activities to address strangulation hazards associated with cords on window covering products. American National Standard for Safety of Corded Window Covering Products (ANSI/WCMA A.100.1) provides requirements that address strangulation hazards associated with the continuous cord loops, inner cords, and cord joiners of window covering products.
ANSI/WCMA A100.1-2012, National Standard for Safety of Corded Window Covering Products, was approved on November 30, 2012. The revisions include: requirements for durability and performance testing of tension/hold down devices, including new requirements for anchoring; specific installation instructions and warnings; new requirements for products that rely on “wide lift bands” to raise and lower window coverings; new requirements for a warning label and pictograms on the outside of stock packaging and merchandising materials for corded products; and new testing requirements for cord accessibility, hazardous loop testing, roll-up style shade performance, and durability testing of all safety devices. CPSC staff believes that these changes should increase durability of certain components, encourage creativity in design, help improve consumer awareness of the strangulation risk associated with cords, and improve awareness of the safer products that should be used in homes with young children.
Even though the requirements associated with tension/hold down devices are improved in the updated standard, CPSC staff believes that based on their review of incident reports involving corded window coverings with tension/hold down devices, many consumers: (1) may not install tension devices at all; (2) may uninstall operable tension devices; or (3) may install tension devices incorrectly, which would jeopardize the safety and effectiveness of the overall system (see staff’s letter for more details). As stated in the International Product Alignment Initiative Document, to achieve the highest rate of permanent reductions in strangulations from corded window covering products, the product designs should address exposure to the hazard. CPSC staff believes that about two-thirds of potentially fatal window covering incidents could be prevented if the looped cords and long operating cords are made inaccessible or made so that a hazardous loop is not formed.
In 2002, CPSC staff and the Window Covering Manufacturers Association (WCMA) initiated a joint activity to review all in-depth investigation (IDI) reports between 1996 and 2002, involving fatalities, to identify products, hazard scenarios, conformance to the voluntary standard, and design solutions. The committee reviewed 79 IDIs. The results of the review, which were distributed to members of the WCMA and the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) in 2004, indicated:
- The leading hazard scenarios associated with window covering products are:
1. Strangulation in the continuous loop cord or chain of vertical blinds and draperies or in loops formed by multiple cords terminating in a single tassel (older horizontal blinds);
2. Strangulation in a loop formed by a knot tied in the lift cords (mostly associated with horizontal type blind cords but also included in some vertical type blind cords); and
3. Strangulation in the inner loop of horizontal blinds.
- Sixty percent of the incidents involved cord systems typically used in horizontal-type blinds; 40 percent involved continuous loop systems typical to vertical blinds and draperies.
- Eighty-two percent of the incidents involved older products that did not conform to the voluntary standard.
- Blinds that meet the voluntary standard can still pose a hazard if the cords are tied up or if the loose cords get entangled.
Despite varied approaches to prevent strangulation from corded window coverings, child fatalities have been recorded for decades and continue to be reported in all of the jurisdictions participating in the international pilot alignment project. Although safety of corded window coverings is managed by different approaches and mechanisms in each of the participating jurisdictions, CPSC is working with fellow regulators to find common solutions that will improve the safety of blinds and shades.