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Window-Covering Makers Should Speed Rules, CPSC Says

Window-covering manufacturers should write tougher rules governing product designs as strangling deaths mount among small children, the chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said.

“A young child is likely to die this month in a window- cord incident,” Inez Tenenbaum said today at an industry meeting in Bethesda, Maryland. “A young child is likely to die every month that this standard is being worked on. No matter what the situation or circumstance is, these tragedies are preventable.”

Window-blind manufacturers such as Hunter Douglas NV and retailers like J.C. Penney Co. are meeting at the agency’s Washington headquarters to map out a plan for bolstering voluntary safety rules through the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI. The group unveiled stricter requirements in September for Roman shades, which are drawn up from the bottom into a series of folds.

The CPSC orchestrated one of the largest recalls in the agency’s history last December to fix more than 50 million Roman and roll-up blinds, covering all such products sold at retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Pottery Barn outlets owned by Williams-Sonoma Inc. and Restoration Hardware Inc.

U.S. regulators received reports of five deaths and 16 near-strangulations in Roman shades since 2006 and three deaths involving roll-up blinds since 2001, the CPSC said in December.

Voluntary Industry Standard

A voluntary industry standard adopted by the institute in September falls short of what’s needed, according to consumer groups involved in the rule-writing process, including Parents for Window-Blind Safety and Consumers Union. That effort focused on adding a warning label to Roman shades and not cords in all types of products.

“If they choose to eliminate all the known hazards, this will be the goal we’ve been pressing for the last eight years,” said Linda Kaiser, founder of Chicago-based Parents for Window- Blind Safety, whose daughter, Cheyenne Rose, died in a window- blind cord accident in 2002.

Today’s meeting kicked off an effort to write tougher rules by next October, Ralph Vasami, executive director of the New York-based Window Covering Manufacturers Association, said in an interview. The effort will apply to all kinds of window coverings and will result in tests for preventing known hazards such as cords accessible by young children, he said.

‘Looking for Solutions’

“We were on a schedule driven by the CPSC to get enhancements out as quickly as possible,” Vasami said. “We’re looking for solutions.”

The industry and the CPSC have been working on the same safety problems since the 1980s, said Carol Pollack-Nelson, an independent product-safety consultant from Rockville, Maryland, who served on the ANSI window-covering committee. Companies haven’t felt the pressure to act because consumers are used to cords and don’t consider them dangerous, she said.

“The challenge of this product is it’s been around for a long time,” Pollack-Nelson said. “It’s like being afraid of your walls and your floors.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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