Image: JoNel Aleccia
By JoNel Aleccia Health writer
msnbc.com
updated 12/2/2010 11:43:19 AM ET 2010-12-02T16:43:19

Lowe’s Stores are recalling about 11 million Roman shades and roll-up blinds after reports that two young children nearly strangled in the window coverings, the Consumer Product  Safety Commission announced today.

The newest recall comes nearly a year after government safety officials declared a voluntary industry-wide recall of more than 50 million shades and blinds following reports of five child deaths and 16 injuries since 2006 caused when kids' heads and necks became caught in the cords or the space between the shades and the cords.

The latest recall includes about 6 million Roman shades and about 5 million roll-up blinds.

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Lowe's shades and blinds were covered by the initial recall and the company took steps at the time to provide warnings and repair kits, Karen Cobb, a company spokeswoman, said Wednesday. The new recall is voluntary and conducted in cooperation with the CPSC. The company chose to add its name to the recall list now as a reminder to customers about the importance of safety, Cobb said.

The new recall underscores the need for regulations that demand that industry produce safer blinds, said Carol Pollack-Nelson, an independent product-safety consultant from Rockville, Md., who formerly worked for the CPSC.

"I think CPSC needs to ride industry," she said, noting that government, blind makers and consumers have been grappling with the same safety concerns for years.

Mandatory standards long have been a delicate issue, however, and they aren't on the table now, said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. Instead, CPSC and window covering industry leaders are working together to draft comprehensive voluntary standards within a year, perhaps by next October, he indicated.

Pollack-Nelson said that CPSC needs to ensure that any proposed voluntary standards are comprehensive and that they're enacted quickly.

In the latest recall, CPSC officials report that two children became entangled in the exposed cords found on the backside of Roman-style shades. In November 2009, a 2-year-old boy from Arvada, Colo., was found with the inner cord wrapped around his arm and neck. In July 2010, a 4-year-old boy from Lexington, S.C., suffered a rope burn to his neck after getting tangled in a Roman shade. No injuries were reported involving the roll-up blinds.

The Roman shades were sold at Lowe’s stores, other retail stores and www.lowes.com from at least 1999 through 2010 and between 1999 and 2005 for the roll-up blinds. The products retailed for between $10 and $1,800. They were manufactured in China, the United States, Mexico and Taiwan.

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CPSC officials said consumers should stop using the recalled Roman shades and roll-up blinds immediately and contact the Window Covering Safety Council for free repair kits by calling (800) 506-4636 or by visiting www.windowcoverings.org.

Since 1990, more than 200 infants and children have died after becoming entangled in blinds, according to the WCSC’s website. Cordless blinds are now widely available.

It’s up to industry to make the changes, because, despite years of education campaigns, some consumers still miss — or misunderstand the message, Pollack-Nelson said. Many parents thought long trailing cords on blinds were the problem, without realizing that babies and young children can get caught in the cords on body of the blinds, too.

“For many people it gets through. For others, it doesn’t get through,” she said.

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