Don't turn a blind eye to the dangers in your home


The dangers of looped cords on window blinds or curtains are often overlooked when parents are childproofing their home, the National Consumer Agency has warned.

It is running a new safety campaign to spread awareness of how small children are at risk of strangulation by loose cords and chains hanging from window blinds and curtains. This comes just months after stricter safety guidelines for new blinds and curtains were published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland in August.

At least five children have died in Ireland since 2005 as a result of becoming entangled in window-blind cords or chains.

The current campaign is targeting households where older blinds and curtains have been fitted, as well as informing people what to look for when buying new ones.

Almost two-thirds of parents of preschool children have blinds with looped cords or chains in their home and 22 per cent have curtains with looped cord or chains, according to research carried out on behalf of the NCA. One-third of those parents have not taken steps to make these window blinds or curtains safe and almost one-quarter say they don’t know how to.

“We are encouraging everybody to see if they have blinds or curtains with loops and, if they have, to take appropriate action,” said the NCA’s director of commercial practices and product safety, John Shine. The dangers, he suggested, just didn’t occur to a lot of people. “The research shows that as parents we have the stair gates, the cupboard locks, etc – but how many people would look at this as a potential danger?”

The NCA has developed a short video, which is available on its website, showing how to make blinds or curtains safer. And it is urging not just parents but anyone who has small children in their home, even occasionally, to check their blinds and curtains and watch the video.

Two-year-old Arran Malley died at his home in Cork in 2009 after his mother found him with a beaded cord from a window blind wrapped around his neck.

Dean Regan Russell was two weeks short of his second birthday when he died at his home in Tralee, Co Kerry, last year, after his neck became entangled in the loop cord of a roller window blind.

After the deaths, members of both boys’ families called for the child-proofing of blinds to be made obligatory.

Manufacturers are expected to adhere to the revised standards, said Shine, and any new products should now come with a safety device. However, there are various choices of blinds and curtains that don’t have looped cords, he pointed out, and these would avoid the risk altogether.

If, for whatever reason, consumers still want ones with loops, they should ask if they meet the new safety standards – IS 387:2012 or IS EN 13120:2009. And they should come with a safety device, which needs to be discussed with the retailer.

“What is really, really important is that it is installed in accordance with the instructions.”

So buyers should make sure their blind or curtain loops come with a safety device, which is then fitted. Also, keep buggies, cots and furniture away from windows if at all possible, said Shine.

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