Dangerous accidents involving children can happen in a heartbeat, whether it's at the pool, around a vacuum cleaner or, as Stevie Niki can attest to, by a window in plain sight. The mom of four was folding laundry while her toddler son, Tayne, played by the window just a few feet away. But next thing she knew, Tayne was tangled up with the window-blind cords around his neck, quietly crying, "Mama."
Niki quickly jumped to the rescue and untangled her son, who fortunately was OK. The blogger of My Tribe of Six was reluctant to post about the incident, especially when such a "major mom fail that could have killed him" would no doubt draw criticism in an age when judgment and mom guilt are ubiquitous.
"But maybe it's more important than me and what you think. Maybe it might stop it from happening to someone else," she wrote on Instagram, including a photo of her son wrapped in the cords (which, for the record, she took after safely untangling her child).
Niki said that the pull cords we often hear about, the ones used to pull blinds up and down, were secured tightly to the framework, "with safety tags attached and all."
"But these cords along the bottom are clearly a major oversight (at least they were to me) when it comes to the safety of our littles," she continued. "I would never have given it a second thought if I had not seen what could have seriously hurt him, if I were not right there, with him."
Niki has not been the only parent to speak out about the danger of window-blind cords. Just last month, dad Karl Williams shared disturbing photos of red marks around his 4-year-old daughter's neck.
"Our daughter was found on the windowsill with the cord wrapped so tight around her neck she had to be cut free. Lucky enough, she was found in time by her quick-thinking mum. We could have lost her. Children will climb on (the) windowsill regardless of how you try to stop them, so dangerous," he wrote on Facebook.
In 2014, another 4-year-old girl in Ohio, who might have been jumping on her bed near the window, died by being strangled by a cord.
Death by hazardous window cords is more common than you might think. According to Parents for Window Blind Safety, a nonprofit aiming to educate consumers about these dangers and support affected families, more than 1,600 children were treated for near-strangulation in U.S. emergency rooms. Fatal cases amount to at least 300, and many others suffered permanent brain damage or quadriplegia.
What makes it even worse is that this danger isn't new or unheard of. The battle to make blinds safer for kids has been going on for about 30 years. In 1997, the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 49 percent of total window-cord strangulations from 1981 were not being reported to the CPSC.
"The deaths are fast and silent. Often, the parent is in the same room and turns away to change a channel or put away laundry. Those thin cords are sharp and quick on little necks," the Washington Post reported last year.
Experts say cordless blinds are the answer, which are only about $5 or so more expensive per unit. According to PFWBS, blinds should have no pull cords to raise and lower, no tilt cords to allow light in and tight inner cords that won't make a loop for a small head to fit through.
If you do have blinds with cords, the CSPC warns against placing cribs, beds and furniture close to windows and to regularly check that cords are out of reach of young children and cannot form dangerous loops.