From 1990 to 2015, nearly 17,000 children younger than 6 were treated in emergency rooms for window-blind related injuries, according to the research, published Monday in the medical journal Pediatrics
The study analyzed data from two national databases that collect hospital and field investigation information. It showed most injuries were minor and did not require hospitalization; the most common injuries involved being struck by a window blind, such as being hit by a falling blind, or when a blind is pulled onto a person.
But entanglement -- which accounted for 11.9% of all cases -- was associated with nearly 80% of 726 hospitalizations and more than 94% of 271 deaths of children during that period.
Almost all the cases of entanglement involved window blind cords.
Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, noted that there are voluntary safety standards for window coverings, and past recalls of specific types of blinds.
But Smith, the senior author of the study, wants it to be mandatory for window blind manufacturers to sell blinds with unexposed or inaccessible cords.
''The reason we are making this statement is simply because the current approach is not working, despite having a voluntary standard in place for many years," Smith said.
According to the study, almost all the entanglements occurred at home, especially in bedrooms or the living room.
Almost 90% occurred when children were under the care of parents, but almost none of the entanglements had a witness. Rather, children had gone to bed, were playing or watching TV unsupervised, often just for a few minutes.
Entanglement can be silent, quick and deadly, Smith noted.
Toddlers and preschoolers are at particular risk, Smith said, as they have new mobility and curiosity, but are less likely to recognize potential dangers, or be able to free themselves.
The study said that many parents are familiar with the dangers of having exposed cords on blinds, but far fewer choose to replace them.
"Designing the problem out of existence" could be the most effective approach to prevent injuries, Smith said.
Changing safety standards
A voluntary safety standard for window covering manufacturers has been in place since 1996, and has been revised several times since then, the study said.
In 2014, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission unanimously approved a petition to develop a mandatory standard
that would eliminate window blind cords that are accessible to children. According to the commission, mandatory rulemaking remains in the first stage.