Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Child’s death puts focus on dangers of window-blind cords

By Ashley Kewish, Deseret News

Published: Mon, May 5 7:01 p.m. MDT

 Leslie Wentz, director of day care relations with Parents for Window Blind Safety, lost her 18-month-old daughter eight years ago when she got tangled up in a window cord. Monday, May 5, 2014, she demonstrated how cordless blinds work.

Leslie Wentz, director of day care relations with Parents for Window Blind Safety, lost her 18-month-old daughter eight years ago when she got tangled up in a window cord. Monday, May 5, 2014, she demonstrated how cordless blinds work.

(Marc Weaver, Deseret News)

PLAIN CITY, Weber County — An Orem family is mourning the death of their young daughter after she was strangled by cords on window blinds last week.

One Utah mother in Plain City knows all too well what this family is going through.

“It puts me back into the day it happened to us,” Leslie Wentz said. “You feel for the family. You know exactly what they’re going through.”

Wentz wants families to know just how deadly this common household item can be, and she's pushing for change. She now sits on the board of the nonprofit organization Parents for Window Blind Safety.

Wentz lost her daughter Abbigale in September 2006. The 18-month-old was rambunctious and got into everything like any toddler would, Wentz said. She died at day care.

“(The day care worker) called and was frantic, couldn’t get anything out,” Wentz said. “She finally said, ‘Your daughter was tangled in a cord.’ Never in a million years did I think window blinds and cords were going to be a deadly issue.”

The tragedy caused her to search for answers. In doing so, she found the international nonprofit organization Parents for Window Blind Safety. It provides a place of support for parents going through the same thing and educates consumers about how easy window cords can wrap around a child’s neck.

Between 1999 and 2011, 140 children have died and 136 have almost strangled to death on corded window coverings, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. On average, one child a month dies from the cords on window treatments.

Parents for Window Blind Safety currently has a safety campaign it’s sharing through social media. It wants to see stricter regulations on window blind cords and hope eventually every home will be cord free.

“To me, my child was priceless," Wentz said, "and I can't get her back, but hopefully I can educate others and keep them from going through the things we've lost in our lives."

With warmer temperatures, many people will be pulling up the blinds and the cords will be down lower. Experts recommend using only cordless window coverings in homes with young children, if possible.

“Start with just one room at a time, your kids’ rooms or the rooms they play in the most," Wentz said.

If that is not an option, there are other things parents can do.

Move cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords. Make loose cords inaccessible. If the window shade has looped bead chains or nylon cords, install tension devices to keep the cord taut.

Blinds sold prior to 2000 have inner cords that can be pulled by a child and form a loop in which a child’s neck can entangle. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends immediately repairing those types of blinds. For a free repair kit to make them safer, call the Window Covering Safety Council at 800-506-4636 or visit windowcoverings.org.

Email: akewish@deseretnews.com

1. Lasvegaspam
Henderson, NV,
May 5, 2014

My 2-year-old granddaughter was almost strangled like this when I was babysitting for her in, of all places, BYU's married student housing! I filed a complaint with them showing them the marks on her neck, hoping they would have the good sense to change out ALL the blinds to cordless, or at least install cleats, around which hanging cords could be wound. ANY blind with a cord is a danger in a home with small children. My heart goes out to these families who have lost their beautiful children in such a preventable way!

2. concretebo
Sandy, UT,
May 6, 2014

Parents watch your children !! If you can not see them worry , it only takes a few minutes or one moment for these terrible things to happen. My prayers to you who have lost children to this type of accident.

3. cherilg
Sandy, UT,
May 6, 2014

There is inexpensive hardware available to install on the window trim so that you can wrap a cord around it. Unfortunately, not everyone knows it exists, or that you can buy it locally (Home Depot, Lowes, etc). I wish that blind manufacturers would include it their product, but if they won't do that, to at least mention it on their packaging. I ran across it when my kids were small, so always installed it on the notoriously always used window covering in my apartments. Now my kids are grown, but seeing its a risk hazard for animals, especially cats, its' still a good idea. A relative if mone just visited the ER last week because her cat was strangling on the cord. She had 16 bites all over her arm trying to free her feline.

4. CA Granny
May 6, 2014

I wish LDS parents of active toddlers and small children would have the same concern about allowing their children to play on the stages of older chapels where there are big curtains with lots of ropes. Years ago, an unsupervised child got tangled in those ropes and also lost her life. I'm glad newer buildings don't have those stages anymore, but it would help if people didn't allow their kids to roam freely in the cultural hall that does have a stage.

5. gnstoo
Kearns, UT,
May 6, 2014

We always just made a habit of tucking the loose cord back up near the top of the blinds. It doesn't have to come out be State or Federal edict, just make people aware of potential hazards. You can even show a 2 year old that particular danger like you would warn them about a hot stove. Too sad, hopefully more people will be aware of this particular danger and protect theirs. I can't imagine the grief these folks are going through... my heart goes out to them.