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Urgent warning on window blinds and shades

This undated handout photo provided by the Consumer

This undated handout photo provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows Roman Shades. The government and the window covering industry on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, recalled more than 50 million Roman-style shades and roll-up blinds because of the risk children may be strangled by the cords. (AP Photo/Consumer Product Safety Commission) Photo Credit: AP Photo/

Prompted by the strangulation deaths in recent years of five children and the near-strangulations of 16 more, a government agency and an industry group teamed up Tuesday to warn consumers about safety problems with an estimated 50 million Roman-style window shades and roll-up blinds.

Consumers were urged to get free repair kits, available from the industry group's Web site,, and reminded how to avoid safety problems with the window treatments.

The action - called a voluntary recall although the window treatments were not being returned in bulk - comes amid a growing awareness of the risks of window treatments, which often leave long cords dangling within reach of children, said the owner of a Plainview window-treatment and child-proofing business.

"People are more and more aware of the dangers, and in general we always try to do more of the cordless shades, especially in a kid's room where you don't want a cord on the floor," said Lane Moss, whose business is based in Plainview. But not everyone is aware of the possibility of death or injury from the Roman shades - a tailored, fabric window shade that hangs as a flat panel and is raised by cords to fold accordion-style - so the massive recall is welcome news, Moss said.

"They all have similar problems with the cords on the shades," though a simple fix can include a $1.29 cord windup - a device that keeps the excess cord neatly in place, he said.

The warning involves millions of blinds, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said in an alert Tuesday. It said about 5 million Roman shades and about 3 million roll-up blinds are sold each year, mostly at larger chain stores. Efforts to reach several local retailers Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

The consumer group said five deaths and 16 near-strangulations from Roman shades have been reported since 2006, while three deaths connected to roll-up blinds have been reported since 2001.

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