"It was just a minute or two."
It's the amount of time parents estimate their attention was distracted when their child emptied the cookie jar with glee, filled a toilet bowl with toilet paper or — tragically — was injured by a window blind cord.
In fact, a recent study sponsored by the Center for Injury Research and Policy found that from 1990 to 2015, two children were injured in the U.S. each day in window blind-related accidents and one child died each month, on average.
While most of the injuries were mild, neck injuries as a result of entanglement in the cords used to maneuver the blinds led to more than 80 percent of the hospitalizations and nearly all of the deaths related to blinds.
"The new study about the dangers of window blind cords caught my attention, both as a pediatrician and as a parent of young children," says Dr. Jennifer Barkley, a double-board certified internal medicine and pediatrics doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. "It's a good reminder that young children can get into serious, and even lethal, trouble within minutes when left unsupervised, including when children are napping in their cribs."
Experts report that most window blind cord incidents involve toddlers and preschoolers under the care of their parents. While blind cord injuries have been recorded in medical files as early as the 1940s, and warnings about the dangers related to having blinds operated by exposed cords have been shared with parents and child care providers for decades, manufacturers were not given voluntary safety standards to follow until 1994.
The latest voluntary standards, developed by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, call for requiring all stock, or non-custom, window covering products be cordless or have cords that are inaccessible. However, custom blinds with cords could still be purchased, though the new standard recommends the addition of warning tags that more graphically depict a strangulation hazard.
Even with these standards, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission strongly recommends that only cordless coverings or window coverings with inaccessible cords be installed where children live or spend time. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics urges the industry to adopt a mandatory safety standard that completely eliminates accessible blind cords.
Until that occurs, Dr. Barkley recommends that cribs should never be placed near windows or window blinds, and window coverings with cords should be replaced with cordless blinds or other cordless coverings. When that's not possible, buying a retrofit safety kit is a reasonable option to decrease the risk of window blind injuries.
"Window blind cords are a very common household item, and this study reminds us to see them as a dangerous object, along with cleaning supplies, medications, laundry detergent pods and electrical outlets," Dr. Barkley says. "Parents should take a good look around their home and find reliable ways to keep these objects away from children at all times."
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Jennifer Barkley about window blind cord injuries for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.