Window cord blinds: what every parent needs to know

You may not realise what a hidden hazard blind cords can be to a baby or toddler. Here's how to keep your child safe

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Windows fitted with blind cords can be a fatal hazard for small children – as the recent death of 16-month-old toddler Bronwyn Taylor at her granny’s house sadly proved.

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And safety experts are renewing their efforts to remind parents to keep the dangers of blind cords front of mind – especially when visiting the houses of friends and relatives.

As part of this campaign, Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency has shared a new, hugely powerful and hard-hitting video highlighting to us that, while we may have done our best to make sure our own houses are free of dangling blind cords, not everyone else’s will be (watch the film here or below).

Toddlers and babies at highest risk

Bronwyn’s death took place after she became tangled up in a metal window blind cord at her grandparents’ home in Stoke-on-Trent. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said it was aware of 27 confirmed deaths from blind cords since 2004 in the UK, with all aged younger than 36 months.

These shocking stats have prompted Scandinavian furniture maker, IKEA, to discontinue all corded blinds in the UK. In a bid to improve safety in the home, IKEA will only be selling window blinds and coverings with “no or non-accessible cords” as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of child strangulation.

A spokesperson for the company says: “Product safety is the highest priority for IKEA which is why we have been working to develop alternative solutions to exposed cords in window blinds and curtains.”

It’s a good start, yes – but one that’s come a little too late for some of us.

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Most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom to children between 16 months and 36 months old, with the majority (more than half) happening at around 23 months.

This is because toddlers are mobile, but their muscular control isn’t fully developed yet, which can make it harder for them to free themselves if they get caught up in a cord.

Also, toddlers’ windpipes are less rigid than those of adults and older children, so they can suffocate more quickly. It’s almost too unbearable to even contemplate – but think about it we must, if we are to keep our kids safe.

Tragedy after sad tragedy

In 2010, Lillian Bagnall-Lambe, 16 months, died after getting tangled up in a blind cord at her home in Stafford. The previous week, 3-year-old Harrison Joyce died at his home in Lichfield following the same accident.

“These heart-breaking accidents highlight the dangers present in homes,” said Detective Inspector Vicky Roberts of Staffordshire Police at the time. “We would urge parents to go round their home looking at all potential risks and think about how to reduce the danger posed by what may appear to be innocuous items.”

And Shelia Merrill from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said, “We typically hear about one or two children dying after becoming tangled in blind cords in the UK each year. To hear about two cases in 5 days in the same area brings home the danger looped cords pose to children.”

Then, in August 2011, Tracey and Jamie Warner’s daughter Emily, 2, had a cord blind accident, which saw her pass away 4 months later because of issues stemming from brain injuries. A coroner has now ruled that her death was a “tragic accident”, resulting from being tangled in the blind cord in her bedroom. 

Emily’s parents then helped launch a Hertfordshire-based campaign to raise awareness amongst parents and carers, the Royston News reported. Jamie said the purpose of this RoSPA-backed campaign is to help ensure, “no other families have to go through what we’ve been through.”

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Undoubtedly public sadness related to these accidents helped see new European laws introduced in 2014, making it illegal for manufacturers to sell blinds with cords unless the cords are fixed to the wall or have a snap-mechanism that breaks the blinds when more than 4kg of pressure is applied.

The regulation also imposes a maximum cord or chain length, and recommends that professional installers fit blinds. Which is all well and good – but is it enough?

It’s best to get a professional to fit new, cord-less blinds in your child’s room – but if you’re putting up blinds with cords elsewhere in your home, make sure you follow the instructions supplied with the product to the letter, then check, check and check again that you’ve fitted them as safely as possible.  

Any more window blinds safety tips?

Yes – and here they are. Always remember:

  1. Install blinds that do not have a cord, particularly in a child’s bedroom
  2. Don’t place a child’s cot, bed, playpen or highchair near a window
  3. Pull-cords on curtains and blinds should be kept short and well out of reach
  4. Tie up the cords or use one of the many cleats, cord tidies, clips or ties that are available
  5. Do not hang toys or objects that could be a hazard on the cot or bed
  6. Don’t hang drawstring bags where a small child could get their head through the loop of the drawstring
  7. Don’t cut cords, even as a short-term solution, if in doubt, get rid of your old blinds or get a free Make It Safe window blind pack from RoSPA, which includes a blind cord cleat to tie blinds up, a safety leaflet and a height chart to highlight any potential dangers for your child
  8. Check out the OECD Global Awareness-raising Campaign on Window Covering Cords
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