Turning down the heat Volume 2 2022. I investigate the discontinuation of corded blinds.

I recently tried to upgrade to cellular blinds in my condo. These blinds are marketed as being able to block heat from the outside and keep heat inside. This was an opportunity to replace the broken cord on the mail order blinds from Select Blinds. I contacted Home Depot and they sent someone out to measure and show me samples. At the time, they told me that corded blinds were being discontinued since Health Canada was about to pass regulations in 2022 banning corded blinds because of deaths of children due to the cords. About 3 months later the blinds arrived it and they installed them. At about 6 months, the first of the 5 blinds would not longer open, so I sent it back. Then about 11 months later the same thing happened and this time I had to uninstall it, package it and mail it back to Levolor in Arizona. Home Depot agreed to cover the $ 50 in postage when I asked.

Ok this is not the end of the world. I suspect everyone is having similar hassles or worse. But being the inquisitive sort of person, I wanted to find out more about the ban on corded blinds because I could not believe that magnitude of infant deaths could really be justified in removing so many products off the market. So I set out to do some research on the issue, which is of course easy in todays world but very time consuming as there is a very deep rabbit hole here. And what is the point of all this dear reader?? It is more about getting it out of my brain rather than sharing my experiences with everyone. But everyone I talked to expressed irritation at the changes. I’m not going to change anything. I also wonder if the effort is justified.

Here is what I discovered:

Canada has banned corded blinds.(1)

According to the Canadian Gazette(2) “Over the next 20 years, this would mean the strangulation death of up to 26 children in Canada. It is estimated that adopting the proposed Regulations would prevent the death of 20 of those 26 children over the next 20 years, as well as prevent other non-fatal strangulation injuries. The proposed Regulations would result in a socio-economic benefit valued at approximately $1 million per year starting in the first year, increasing to almost $10 million per year once risks are fully eliminated in the tenth year and beyond. Over the next 20 years, this would provide a social benefit valued at approximately $73 million.” This document estimated 1.3 deaths due to blind cords per year in Canada but did not describe methods to calculate the rate.

“The proposed Regulations would also significantly reduce testing requirements for industry, which is estimated to be a saving of $5.7 million per year, resulting in cumulative savings of $64 million.
The total benefits of the proposed Regulations are estimated to be $138 million over 20 years (2016 price level, discounted at 7%).” The report has a detailed economic analysis of the costs and benefits based on theoretical models.

US data on infant deaths is confusing.

Several different measures were used to try an estimate deaths due to blind cords. The first approach used anecdotal information “Based on newspaper clippings, consumer complaints, death certificates purchased from states, medical examiners’ reports, reports from hospital emergency department-treated injuries, and in-depth investigation reports, CPSC staff found a total of 209 reported fatal and near-miss strangulations on window covering cords that occurred among children <8 years old from January 2009 – December 2021.” This is 16 deaths/year(3). A second source estimated 8.1 deaths per year due to blind cords.(4)The CDC reported a rate of 25.5 deaths per 100,000 live births due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed using the ICD 10 codes in 2020. Figure 2 A fourth source was a peer reviewed article published in 2018 found 141 blind entanglements resulted in death over 16 years, for an annual death rate of 8.8 per year.(5) This was the most thorough analysis of data I found.

Figure 1(6)

I then went to the US Mortality Data base and the ICD Code W 75 to show trends over time which have been increasing Figure 2

Figure 2(7)

ICD W 75 is Accidental Suffocation and strangulation in bed.

The range of deaths from different sources range from 8 -25 per year depending on the methods and data sources. Most deaths using the ICD 10 code accidental strangulation W75 are in children under one year of age, male, Native American or Black or living in the southern US states. A fifth source of data is the US Emergency Dept database.(8) I explored the data base but the data on deaths was not published on line. This database included a field 683 Window Shades, Venetian Blinds, or Indoor Shutter but does not specify cords.

The manufacturers of blinds published a post in 2021 about the cost of re-tooling and the potential 4,900 job losses. This was not included the cost benefit analysis above.

So, what does all this tell us?

  • It is difficult to come up with a precise number of infants deaths due to strangulation by blind cords but there is a small number of infant deaths attributed to cords in blinds.
  • The cost benefit analysis is theoretical and the data is difficult to find and substantiate.
  • It will be impossible to say if the ban reduces unexpected infant deaths until there is an accurate way to report the deaths.
  • There will be a time lag until new types blinds can be produced and existing blinds replaced.
  • People may give up on blinds and go back to drapes to help mitigate loss of heat.
  • There is going to be a lot of customer feedback on the changes that will have to be born by retailers.
  • With todays level of technical capacity, manufactures should be able to come up with an alternative to corded blinds that open from the top. So why I haven’t they found anything that does the job?
  • In this time of deaths from COVID, guns and drugs, the amount of time and effort put into the banning of blinds exceeds the benefits that could be derived by banning guns and controlling substance use.
  • WordPress does not enable importing of footnotes.

Notes

The WHO has added new codes to the ICD 11 in 2022  PB00 Unintentional threat to breathing by suffocation from object covering mouth or nose.  Object or substance producing injury E92A Roller or venetian blind or indoor shutter.

[1] https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2019-97/FullText.html

[2] https://canadagazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2017/2017-06-17/html/reg7-eng.html

[3] https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/11/28/2022-25041/safety-standard-for-operating-cords-on-custom-window-coverings

[4]  N. Marcy, G. Rutherford. “Strangulations Involving Children Under 5 Years Old.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, December 2002. was widely cited in the reports but the document was not found on the WWW.

[5] Bridget Onders, Eun Hye Kim, Thitphalak Chounthirath, Nichole L. Hodges, Gary A. Smith; Pediatric Injuries Related to Window Blinds, Shades, and Cords. Pediatrics January 2018; 141 (1): e20172359. 10.1542/peds.2017-2359

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/sids/data.htm#:~:text=We%20defined%20cause%20of%20death,%2C%20(799.9%3B%20R99).

[7] https://wonder.cdc.gov/controller/datarequest/D76;jsessionid=E2A5C8A8389056FA2E5F2DA9A781

[8] https://www.cpsc.gov/cgibin/NEISSQuery/UserCriteria.aspx?UserAff=XNTlUuA3gVTx5UjCJb8RMA%3d%3d&UserAffOther=ACCDbi4Soz8YSJIYHY0l%2fA%3d%3d

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