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Citing danger to children, industry to limit sales of blinds with long cords

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Wooded-Blinds
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There are child-safety hazards hiding all around the average home, but soon there will be one less danger lurking on the shelves of home stores.

As of Dec. 15, you’ll no longer find blinds, shades, or other window coverings with long cords in stock. The industry-wide ban is a response to the hundreds of young children who get tangled up in — and sometimes strangled by — them each year. Toddlers can get caught in a cord quickly and quietly, and American emergency rooms treated nearly two children a day for cord-related injuries from 1990 to 2015, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and one of the study’s authors, said those innocuous-looking drawstrings can easily turn deadly. “While the majority of children were treated and released, there was about one child death each month — most from strangulation when a child became entangled by the neck in a window blind cord,” Smith told Parents.com.

Blinds and shades with longer cords will still be available for custom orders — for elderly and disabled customers or hard-to-reach windows, for example — but they’ll no longer be sold as stock items off the shelf or online, in accordance with the new industry rules.

On a recent trip to my local Home Depot, corded blinds were heavily marked down — some by 75 percent or more — as the store prepared to pull the products. Gratefully, new cordless versions didn’t appear to be much more expensive than the ones they were replacing.

Marcia Clifford, who owns Budget Blinds of Quincy, said that for the past few months, manufacturers have allowed her to order cordless versions of their products at no extra charge. “People have always been attracted to [cordless blinds], but the price has been prohibitive. Now they get it at no additional cost.”

That’s a relief. When we first bought our house, we had 20 some-odd bare windows to cover up after moving in. As much as we coveted cordless honeycomb shades that open from the top or bottom, they were beyond our budget after draining our savings for the house itself; at just $5 to $15 a window, stock-sized vinyl mini-blinds were a lifesaver. (Little did we know they might have been life threatening as well.) I was curious whether the new standards would bring an end to that bottom-of-the-market option. But on my visit to Home Depot, I found a whole new section of low-cost, cordless vinyl blinds in stock.

“We’ve been able to work with our supplier partners to provide affordable cordless options without sacrificing quality,” said Brooke Duckett, Home Depot’s window coverings merchant. “While the cordless mechanism is more expensive, we still offer an array of styles … ranging from $6 to upwards of $100, depending on the size, style, and customer preference.”

Despite the scary orange warning labels on the bottom of our corded vinyl blinds, we didn’t really think twice at the time about the safety hazard they presented. But we’ve since started replacing our window treatments room by room, upgrading to top-down, bottom-up cellular shades a few hundred dollars at a time — not unlike the way we gradually swapped out our drafty old windows. (Believe me, my daughter’s room is next on the list.)

If you’re thinking of replacing your own corded blinds, it’s generally a job you can do yourself. “We carry the most common sizes and colors in store, and can custom cut the product in store at no charge to the customer. All we need are the measurements,” Duckett said. Measure the width and height of each window at multiple points inside the frame, she said, including at the top, middle, and bottom for width. “We recommend measuring in three places because windows aren’t always perfectly square.”

The total cost will depend on the size of the windows and, more important, the type of covering. “Typically, the type of material is the biggest driver of price for consumers,” Duckett said, with vinyl mini-blinds as your least expensive option, faux-wood blinds in the middle of the pack, and pricier real-wood slats and cellular honeycomb shades at the high end.

“If you have a younger child who doesn’t sleep well, the best product for them is a cellular room-darkening shade,” Clifford said. “They cost a few dollars more but they really keep the light out, and I know many parents have been really appreciative of that suggestion.”

While top-down, bottom-up cellular shades run well over $100 a window, there are other more affordable cordless options for kids. Decorative window films, for example, simply adhere to the window and give the appearance of stained or frosted opaque glass while allowing light to pass through. Cordless Roman shades and faux-wood blinds are reasonably priced, and, of course, there’s always curtains. “More and more, we’re seeing customers layer [curtains] over a blind or shade,” Duckett said.

Naturally, you can hire a pro to measure and install your window coverings for you, but either way, the combination of effort and cost involved made me realize I had vastly underestimated the value of good window treatments when touring homes for sale. We’re easily wowed by new appliances or dramatic light fixtures, but attractive window coverings — which, because of their custom sizes, will almost always remain with the home after the sale — can represent thousands of dollars in value.

And, if they’re cordless, a priceless peace of mind.

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