A toddler in Plymouth has died after being caught in a window blind, his mother found him hanging from his bedroom blind one evening and tragically he was dead. The 21 month old child had been left just for a few minutes so his mother could prepare him some milk before bed, however, in that short time, he had managed to wind the cord round his neck. He managed to reach the blind by climbing on a chest of drawers.
The Royal Society For The Prevention of Accidents (RSPOA) has stated that since 1999 at least fifteen toddlers have been strangled by blind and curtain cords - which is a staggering and dreadful figure. They have said that the cords are a real hazard that people just don't think about. Toddlers of about 2 years are at most risk because their heads are big and get caught, they are adventurous and want to climb and explore, they don't understand the dangers and they are more susceptible to suffocation because their windpipes have not fully developed.
There are new British Standards which will help supplies sell blinds that are safe for consumers to use, however there are many thousands of homes which will contain blind and curtains that do not comply with the standards.
Here are a few simple measures to make your existing blinds as safe as possible:
- Keep all looped cords out of reach (including if you stand on a chest or bed to reach them!)
- Keep cots and beds away from blinds
- Use a cleat or hook to wind up any loose cord
- Secure the cord to the wall
- Use a chain breaker which will break if pressure is applied.
When buying new blinds try and opt for blinds with hidden cords, cords that don't form a loop, or those operated by wand that you wind or with gears.
Coroner Andrew Haigh has called for a ban on looped cords for blinds and curtains having held two inquests for two toddlers who died having been caught up in such cords. His call comes almost a year to the day after a Scottish sheriff also called for such a ban following another toddler' death. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) report that between one or two children are killed each year by looped blind cords. Such blind and curtain mechanisms have long been banned in the USA, Australia and Canada, and it's time they were removed from sale in the UK too.
If you have looped curtain or blind cords in your home, make them safe for children. Follow advice from the British Blind and Shutter Association who publish a leaflet on how to make blinds safe. Their advice includes:-
- Ensure that chains and cords aren't within reach of children, especially when they are standing in their cot or on their bed
- Don't put sofa's or other furniture near to such cords that children could climb on
- Make sure cords are secured and out of reach, you can secure cords with cleats, or cord tidies; cord tidies secure to the wall, keeping the cord taut and safe from entanglement
- Ensure that chains have a plastic break connector - a small clip holding two ends of the chain together, these are designed to break under pressure and preventing an accident
If you are fitting new blinds, then look for mechanisms that do not require a looped chain or cord, such as pull wands, spring operated roller blinds, concealed or geared mechanisms with a wand that twists to operate the blind. You may be able to cut looped curtain cord and tie a pull handle to each end, removing the loop which is the main cause of strangulation in young children.
Our houses generally offer a safe environment for young children, but a sales ban on looped cords and chains for blinds and curtains could save one or two little lives every year.