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, windowcoverings.org, 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 aboutblinds.com 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.