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Campaign seeks to help consumers pick safe blinds, shades

A label warns of strangulation risks from mini blind cords as seen on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, in Washington. The industry launched a campaign that encourages companies to send their products to a third-party testing facility to determine whether they should be used in homes with little ones. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Trying to figure out which window blinds or shades are safe to buy for homes with young children?

The industry launched a campaign Wednesday that encourages companies to send their products to a third-party testing facility to determine whether they should be used in homes with little ones. If so, they would get a “Certified Best For Kids” label — a move that was welcomed by Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Elliot Kaye.

The problem with many blinds and shades has long been the cords used to raise and lower them, and the strangulation risk they can pose to children. Safety officials say about 184 infants and young children died from strangling in window cords between 1996 and 2012.

The campaign by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association would be voluntary.

Kaye said in a statement that an agency priority is to end the decades-long cycle of a child dying nearly every month from strangulation in a window-covering cord.

“Having a new label that better informs parents about blinds and shades that are safer for children is a positive step,” said Kaye. But he said it should be part of a broader effort to move away from the sale of blinds and shades that have accessible cords.

Cordless window coverings are on the market but usually cost more.

WCMA Executive Director Ralph Vasami said the idea behind the testing and labeling program is to help provide “clarity to consumers and retailers.”

Currently, under the voluntary industry standard, blinds and shades with cords are supposed to carry an “entrapment” risk warning. But the industry says some products on market shelves carry warning labels but shouldn’t, such as blinds without an outside pull cord but with accessible inner cords that can’t be used to create a noose-like loop that a child could strangle on.

For a time, as the program is phased in, it could be possible to see the old “entrapment risk” labels on a blind, along with the new “Best For Kids” label. Eventually, though, the old label would be replaced with the new “Best For Kids” label on those blinds and shades that are certified as safe, the industry said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission first started warning parents and caregivers in 1985 about the dangers of strangulation on window-covering cords. The agency has issued recalls for millions of blinds and shades due to safety concerns over the years. Until recently, though, CPSC has relied on the industry to police itself with voluntary standards.

In January, the commission decided to consider writing mandatory rules that manufacturers would be required to follow. Among the options under consideration: a ban on all window blinds and shades with cords or rules that window coverings could have cords but they could not be ones that a child could grab or touch. The comment period on the rulemaking closes June 1.

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