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Consumer Watch: Child death puts focus on window-blind cords

Sep. 28, 2009 - 10:39AM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 28, 2009 - 10:39AM  |  
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Marine wife Chantal Teraberry never imagined that window blinds would pose a hazard for her child.

But when her youngest daughter, 3-year-old Weslea, strangled on a window blind's chain loop cord in their house at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Feb. 15, 2008, Teraberry said, "I went into a zombielike state for months. I didn't understand why or how it could happen. A lot of people don't realize the danger."

Teraberry, who received support from the nonprofit organization Parents for Window Blind Safety, www.pfwbs.org, now wants to help other families avoid this tragedy, especially military families.

On Sept. 11, the 3-year-old child of a sailor died after being accidentally caught in window-blind cords in his home in Norfolk, Va., said Linda Kaiser, founder of Parents for Window Blind Safety.

"I wasn't able to sleep when I found out another child had lost his life," Kaiser said.

She noted that within the last month, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled about 6 million window blinds, trying to make homes safer for families and their children. Further information is available on the commission's Web site, www.cpsc.gov. Some of the recalled blinds were sold as long ago as 1992.

Kaiser and Teraberry believe that window coverings should be cordless to prevent a child from being strangled. "We're not just talking about cheap plastic blinds. Anything with a cord," Kaiser said.

Kaiser founded the organization in 2002 after one of her 1-year-old twin daughters, Cheyenne Rose, died after reaching her hand between the slats of a window blind and pulling a loop that ended up strangling her.

Kaiser said she had tied up the pull cords, thinking it was the safest thing for her children until she could afford to buy safer cordless window coverings.

After Cheyenne died, other parents contacted her. "I realized only after a few months that this was not a freak accident. It was an epidemic."

In the past nine years, 102 children have been reported strangled by cords attached to window coverings, she said. Other children have been severely injured.

When a child dies, the organization sends a box with grief support materials; it is left to the family to decide whether to contact the group for additional support.

A number of window blinds have been recalled, but military parents who are often relocating may not think about the danger when moving to a new house.

Teraberry said the window blinds in their base quarters were there when they arrived. "I did find out later that the blind Weslea strangled on was recalled in 1994," she said.

A few months after Weslea died, another child died in housing at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. "After that, base housing came around and cut the loops, making sure the blind cords weren't tied up," Teraberry said.

Kaiser and Teraberry want to make parents aware of alternatives to blinds with cords.

"Use a pull-down shade. There's also a window blind with a twisting stick," Teraberry said.

"Any kind of cord can pose a strangulation threat."

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