PLAIN CITY, Weber County — An Orem family is mourning the death of their young daughter after she was strangled by cords on window blinds last week.
One Utah mother in Plain City knows all too well what this family is going through.
“It puts me back into the day it happened to us,” Leslie Wentz said. “You feel for the family. You know exactly what they’re going through.”
Wentz wants families to know just how deadly this common household item can be, and she's pushing for change. She now sits on the board of the nonprofit organization Parents for Window Blind Safety.
Wentz lost her daughter Abbigale in September 2006. The 18-month-old was rambunctious and got into everything like any toddler would, Wentz said. She died at day care.
“(The day care worker) called and was frantic, couldn’t get anything out,” Wentz said. “She finally said, ‘Your daughter was tangled in a cord.’ Never in a million years did I think window blinds and cords were going to be a deadly issue.”
The tragedy caused her to search for answers. In doing so, she found the international nonprofit organization Parents for Window Blind Safety. It provides a place of support for parents going through the same thing and educates consumers about how easy window cords can wrap around a child’s neck.
Between 1999 and 2011, 140 children have died and 136 have almost strangled to death on corded window coverings, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. On average, one child a month dies from the cords on window treatments.
To me, my child was priceless, and I can't get her back, but hopefully I can educate others and keep them from going through the things we've lost in our lives.
–Leslie Wentz, Plain City
Parents for Window Blind Safety currently has a safety campaign it’s sharing through social media. It wants to see stricter regulations on window blind cords and hope eventually every home will be cord free.
“To me, my child was priceless," Wentz said, "and I can't get her back, but hopefully I can educate others and keep them from going through the things we've lost in our lives."
With warmer temperatures, many people will be pulling up the blinds and the cords will be down lower. Experts recommend using only cordless window coverings in homes with young children, if possible.
“Start with just one room at a time, your kids’ rooms or the rooms they play in the most," Wentz said.
If that is not an option, there are other things parents can do.
Move cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords. Make loose cords inaccessible. If the window shade has looped bead chains or nylon cords, install tension devices to keep the cord taut.
Blinds sold prior to 2000 have inner cords that can be pulled by a child and form a loop in which a child’s neck can entangle. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends immediately repairing those types of blinds. For a free repair kit to make them safer, call the Window Covering Safety Council at 800-506-4636 or visit windowcoverings.org.