Take a look around your house: Do you have any blinds with pull cords? It takes just 15 seconds for a child to be strangled by a cord. That’s why Health Canada is urging parents to do away with corded window coverings and is proposing new regulations that would restrict cords to a maximum length of 22 centimetres and limit cord loops to 44 centimetres in perimeter.
“That’s based on what a child can get around their neck,” says Tyler Goodier, unit head of mechanical and physical hazards in Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Directorate. “It doesn’t take very much cord to result in a fatal incident.”
On average, at least one child dies each year from being strangled by corded window coverings. “In a lot of cases, we’re talking about children who are between the ages of one and four. This is an age when parents start to have confidence in the child’s ability to roam around parts of the house unsupervised,” says Goodier. “The real problem is once they get into a situation, they don’t really know how to get out of it.”
If you have a product that has a long cord right now and young children in the home, it's best not to lose time in changing the window treatments. "And if you have to pick one to get rid of first, it’s the one in the child’s bedroom,” says Goodier. This is where kids are most likely to have time alone, whether it’s because they wake up before their parents or can’t sleep at night. The next most important place to make the switch is in the living room or wherever your child spends most of their time.
Many cordless blind options are already on the market, but if you can’t afford to buy new ones right now, Health Canada suggests cutting existing cords as short as possible and not leaving them dangling within reach. However, be careful that any measures you take don’t create cord loops. Goodier says many people tie cords together to make them less messy or easier to use, but this makes them extra hazardous, because kids can become trapped more easily.
In addition to restricting the length of any cords, Health Canada’s proposed regulations would require a warning on all corded products that tells consumers that, if the cord should ever become loose and leave more than 22 centimetres exposed, it should be disposed of. If the regulations pass, they will come into effect in 2018.
Canadians have until August 31, 2017 to submit feedback to Health Canada, so if you have concerns about the new regulations, or would like to share information about your child’s experience with corded window coverings, reach out to:
Scott Postma, Consumer Product Safety Directorate of the Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch of Health Canada.