Playing Games with Safety Information

One of the key roles for the CPSC is to educate consumers about safety in their daily lives, ranging from Halloween costumes and holiday lights to carbon monoxide from generators and cribs with faulty parts.  I am alarmed, then, that the agency’s leadership apparently decided to put process before safety when it comes to window blinds.

For many years, the CPSC co-sponsored National Window Covering Safety Month with the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC). (This is one of the many cooperative safety efforts the agency co-sponsors with outside groups on a regular basis.) With more than two billion window coverings in American homes, it is imperative to educate consumers about reducing accidents related to this widely-used consumer product.  The risk is that small children may become entangled in window-covering cords and strangle. The CPSC did not collaborate with the WCSC on this important message this year.

I disagree with this decision for two key reasons. First, some speculate that the agency’s leadership did not want to associate the agency with the WCSC because the ANSI standard-writing process was supposedly not moving in the right direction. But the WCSC is an independent group of manufacturers, retailers, and importers and is not involved in developing the standards at ANSI. So not collaborating with the WCSC on general safety messages appears counter-productive and unjustifiably punitive.

Second, the new standards will not deal with any risk that may exist with the vast majority of already-installed window coverings. In light of this, shouldn’t we use every major communication tool to inform consumers how to safely use window coverings currently in place?

People should be outraged if government information that might prevent an injury or death is not fully disseminated because of concerns about who has what position on writing a future product safety standard. Consumer safety should not be held hostage.


4 Responses to “Playing Games with Safety Information”

  1. 1 Sarah Flethcer November 7, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Dear Commissioner Nord:

    Thank you for your recent post on the window covering safety issue. You were so right when you made the point that “The new standards will not deal with any risk that may exist with the vast majority of already-installed window coverings. In light of this, shouldn’t we use every major communication tool to inform consumers how to safely use window coverings currently in place?”
    As I understand it, most injuries (some 80 percent) result from existing product, so any regulatory changes would not affect those products. Education really is key. Most people do not know that window covering cords can be hazardous; they should continue to be educated.

    Also, at this time I do not believe that any government agency should lose site of the fact that keeping Americans in jobs and creating new jobs is vitally important to the health and well-being of our country.

    Unduly stringent safety standards that make it expensive for manufacturers to compete and impede potential new entrants into a business (and as you know 60 percent of new job growth comes from small business) are not, in my opinion, what the Consumer Product Safety Commission should be about, especially in 2011/2012.

    The unduly stringent safety standards in the window coverings arena potentially threaten the thousands and thousands of small, independent businesses across the U.S. that rely on the sales of these products for their livelihoods.

    Thank you.

    Sarah Fletcher
    Vice President
    Lou Hammond & Associates

  2. 2 Michael Cienian November 5, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Hello Ms. Nord –
    I served as President of the Window Covering Safety Council for several years. The WCSC mission is to inform the public of the dangers of older vintage corded window covering products (those made before 2000), provide free retrofit kits and provide a free hotline/website where people can order kits and get more safety information (
    I was very disappointed to learn that CPSC was not co-sponsoring the annual outreach campaign of October as National Window Covering Safety Month.
    This campaign has always helped to get the message out to new parents, new grandparents, and new care-givers who may have these older products in their homes or businesses. This awareness is key. As you note there are still millions of older products in windows across our country. It is disappointing to see CPSC back off from an established and successful collaborative effort that has helped raise consumer awareness and very likely save lives.

    Thank you,
    Michael A Cienian

  3. 3 James November 5, 2011 at 6:40 am

    A discussion related to this came up in a Facebook group I am part of. I work in the window treatment business and I am concerned with the direction these “standards” are headed.

    And unless I have misunderstood something apparently that direction equates to the fact that it will no longer be the manufacturers responsibility to manufacture a product that has appropriate features and components to provide for the safety of its end-users.

    It will now fall to the dealers, installers, and homeowners to provide for the safety of children. Yet the dealers, installers, and homeowners don’t have the same R&D staff/budget that the manufacturers have. The dealers, installers, and homeowners don’t have the same access to materials and components that the manufacturers have.

    If this came out of the US Congress, I would say it sounds like a bunch of lobbyists got together in order to create this nightmare.

    All in all, to me it sounds like its a good time to evaluate which manufacturers and which product lines we in the industry want to offer and promote. Although by doing so, we will be hampering our ability to provide our customers with what they are asking for thus causing us to potentially “lose the sale” to some offshore/online dealer who doesn’t know/care about the safety standards. Heaven forbid a small business owner be allowed to make a profit in this day and age.

    And let’s not forget, like you mention, none of this covers products that are already in place and what about 7-10 years from now if the homeowner wants to sell their house? I’ve been in houses that have changed owners 3 or 4 times, but the blinds & shades have been there for 15-20 years. Will some goof-ball regulation force them to replace all of the window treatments just to be “compliant” or face lawsuits down the road? Where do we as a society draw the line on some of this crap?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for safe products. I have 2 small children myself and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them if it could be prevented. But in my experience it’s the “micro-managing” of a product or industry by those who are not in that industry that usually creates those unforeseen and unintended consequences that you then have to contend with down the road.

    Sorry for the extended length of my commentary. I will step off my soapbox now.

  4. 4 Richard Carlan November 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm


    Wow…this is unbelievable that you would write something like this. Your like an answer to a prayer.

    Chantal Teraberry, who lost her daughter, Weslea to the chain loop of a vertical blind, is just now getting her life together after 3 years. She says the loss of her daughter’s life will not be in vain and she vows teach others through awareness. Her campaign is ABC, standing for Awareness of Blind Cords.

    If parents of little ones know their blinds are dangerous to little kids, then the blinds won’t be dangerous to little kids. People are simply not aware of the danger.. yet. Our ABC campaign is trying to change that.

    Any help or suggestions you could give would be wonderful. The blog is at

    There are some videos we made and stats and stuff about blind cord dangers. Please stop by.

    “There is nothing in this world more important than trying to make sure little kids don’t get hurt. NOTHING!” -the Teraberry Knights of Knickerbocker Cottage.

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