The Dangers of Window Blinds

Autumn Schenck
Autumn Schenck
The Dangers of Window Blinds
By: Crystal Britt
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - "It was the most horrible thing."
Three months ago Linda Shaw got the phone call that still haunts her.
"They were on their way to the hospital. She (a family friend) said there had been a bad accident," Shaw said.
Her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren had just moved from Poplar Bluff to Birmingham, Alabama. They lived in a rental house where 15-month-old Autumn Schenck found a hidden danger.
"Laura said mom, it's too late.  She's gone," Shaw said. "She (Autumn) climbed in the chair.  She climbed up in the window sill, and somehow she got that window blind." 
It happened in an instant.
"It's just a horrifying thought that that baby died like that," Shaw said.  The strangulation left so many unanswered questions.
"I never thought those blinds could hurt anyone."
Linda Shaw quickly found out her family isn't suffering alone.  Linda Kaiser of Manchester knows the pain all too well.  In June, 2002 she lost her 12-month-old Cheyenne.
"I placed her down for bed.  It was 7:30 at night.  She was in the corner of her crib in an unnatural position.  I knew something was wrong," said Kaiser. 
She says she tried CPR, but it was too late.
"I didn't understand what had happened, because my pull cords were tied up out of her reach.  So, I didn't understand how she got tangled up," said Kaiser.  A few months after Cheyenne's death, Linda founded "Parents for Window Blind Safety."
"Children ages 10 years old and down have died.  It's not just the little bitty babies that don't know what they're doing.  We're talking three, four, five, and six year olds, up to 10," Kaiser said. 
She says her daughter strangled on the inner cord of a mini blind. 
"She somehow got it around her neck," she said. 
Kaiser says other blinds have proved deadly, like the faux wood kind involved in Autumn Schneck's death.  There are also cellular shades, and roman shades.  Linda Kaiser calls Roman Shades possibly the worst kind.
"All a little boy or little girl needs to do is reach in behind and pull on the cords and form a loop," Kaiser said. 
Dan Phillips owns Budget Blinds in Cape Girardeau.
"It's really not on the consumer's mind.  It's our job to make sure that they know if they have children we can provide them with safe products," he said. 
Since 2001, the government set safety standards.
"They (the window blind industry) now add a small plastic bead to that cord so therefore you cannot pull the cords through and children cannot get stuck in the cords," Phillips said. 
Even Dan admits, certain products don't belong in a child's home, like the roman shade. 
"Probably not the best choice for child safety," he said. 
While mini blinds are the cheapest option, more expensive cordless, or remote-controlled blinds are considered a better choice around children.
"Anything with no cords is the safest way to go," said Phillips. 
That's what Linda Kaiser's been screaming about ever since her daughter died, but she says the Consumer Products Safety Commission just won't listen.
"Nothing's being done about it.  They won't recall them.  They won't even tell the public not to use the cords at all," she said.
"In the long run that (going cordless) would be great, but economically it's probably not feasible.  There's a lot of money that goes into that," said Dan Phillips with Budget Blinds. 
"Money talks," said Linda Shaw. 
Shaw says the window blind industry won't get another dime from her.  After her granddaughter died she ripped out every one in her home.
"I cut them up so no one else could use them," she said. 
Linda Shaw is telling everyone she knows about the dangers, while she grieves over Autumn, now buried just a few blocks from her home.  She says she misses so many things, like her "little hugs." While her arms are empty, Shaw is filled with a new found passion.
"People need to be aware that there's a danger there," Shaw said.
And, she won't let anyone forget her granddaughter.
"Her little life had to stand for something, it had to mean something," she said.
Autumn's parents, Jim and Laura Schenck still live in Alabama.  They're focusing right now on two things...taking care of their other daughter, two-year-old Willow and suing the window blind industry.  
Advocates hope someday for an all out ban on window blind cords.  Linda Kaiser says right now there's legislation in the works in Missouri to ban cords in daycares.  She says lawmakers in Washington already enacted a similar law after a child strangled in a daycare.