The UK window blind industry and government safety agencies have been slammed for complacency and accused of a complete disregard for children’s lives by failing to give parents vital information on safety devices.
Angry grandparents John and Pat Astley, who live near Greenock, say the official response to dangers posed by looped window blind cords is too little and too late to prevent tragedies. Unless action is taken now more young children will die, they say.
Shocked by the growing window blind accident toll, the Astleys developed a simple test, similar to that used to test medicine bottle caps, to assess current safety devices such as cleats, tensioners and tassels. It shows that none is completely safe.
Despite official support and publicity a device that implies greater safety but which actually offers little or no protection to a young child could be lethal, they warn.
At present there is no universal guideline by which parents can measure a safety device’s effectiveness. The Astleys are now calling on their standard test to be accepted by all industry and safety bodies to ensure no more lives are lost.
John said: ”The widely unrecognised risks posed by window blind cords affect millions of private homes and public buildings across the UK. We believe the dangers presented by window blind cords are much more serious than most people realise. Introducing a recognised safety guideline for parents is now essential.”
In February 2008, two-year-old Muireann McLaughlin died at her home in Menstrie, near Stirling, after becoming entangled in a looped window blind cord. She was waving goodbye to her grandmother moments before she fell into the cord.
This year, 16-month-old Lillian Bagnall-Lambe, of Stafford, died after becoming entangled in a blind. Five days earlier, also in Staffordshire, three-year-old Harrison Joyce was killed at his home after being left alone in a room for a matter of minutes.
In Wales, Gethin Ifor Jones died just days before his second birthday in 2009 and in Ireland, Aida Foster lost her life in March this year yards from her six-months pregnant mother in the sitting room of their home in Piltown, County Kilkenny.
John added: “We believe that the disasters waiting to happen in our homes and public buildings in almost every UK community are far more serious than most people realise. There are more than 250million window blinds already in the UK and 25million more are sold each year. In the US more than 3.25billion are already installed and they recalled more than 60million in January this year to avoid further deaths which happen there every two weeks on average.
“Even more disturbing is that near misses are running at 10 times the recorded deaths.”
Pat said: “As a mother and grandparent of 10, like most people I was completely unaware of the massive scale of the problem. There are millions of potential death traps in homes across the UK alone. Window blinds are a clear and present danger in the home. Their hanging cords can injure or kill young children and even pets, as many distraught families have discovered too late.”
She concluded: “We call on everyone involved, from government agencies to concerned parents, to back the introduction of this new safety guideline before yet another family faces the horror of losing a child to a silent killer in their home.”
The website www.arewindowblindssafe.com provides background information on the safety issues involved with window blind cords and includes the new guideline, offering the opportunity for comment from any interested party.
For further information, interviews or photographs, please contact:
Pat and John Astley, tel: 07709 347398, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org