I voted to grant the petition for rulemaking, but today’s vote does not commit us to proposing a window coverings standard, much less finalizing one. Instead, the Commission agreed that the next step should be for the staff to develop an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. That approach will allow the CPSC staff to gather more information about these products and to work with industry experts on identifying alternative ways to prevent strangulation deaths and injuries. To take the economic analysis to the next level, the staff needs better information about the impacts of different approaches—not only on manufacturing costs and resulting prices but also on the functionality and useful life of window coverings and their operability by senior citizens and certain disabled populations.
I have significant reservations about whether a mandatory standard for window coverings could be justified under the Consumer Product Safety Act. All of us at the Commission are keenly aware of the tragic deaths of young children that continue to occur all too often as a result of corded window coverings. According to the staff’s preliminary analysis, however, the annual risk of a fatal strangulation from the corded window coverings sold from 1996 to 2010 barely exceeds one in a hundred million units. Moreover, that risk is already declining as older products are gradually being replaced with the better products that are available now, and it will continue to decline as even better products become available in the future and safer alternatives become more affordable.
Whether our efforts ultimately result in new standards or not, we must strive to increase awareness of the hazards of corded products, particularly among parents and caregivers of young children and others who interact with them. Taking advantage of cordless and other improved window coverings that are available in the market will help to provide young children with a safer environment.