Home-improvement giant Lowe's has publicly associated itself with a massive recall of Roman blinds and shades that dates back to 2009.
Lowe's is by far the largest retailer of the blinds and shades to join the effort. It alone accounts for 11 million of the more than 50 million recalled window coverings. The nearest runner-up is IKEA, which recalled over 3 million blinds and shades in June.
The shades and blinds were recalled because they pose a potential choking hazard, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC). Children can catch their heads in the drawstrings or other loose cords.
"We participated in that recall [from last year] just like we would at any time a manufacturer announced a recall with the CPSC," says Karen Cobb, spokeswoman for Lowe's Home Centers Inc. of Wilkesboro, N.C, the world's second-largest home-improvement retailer. Although not publicly associated with the recall before this week, Lowe's stores have posted recall information in their stores, installed retrofit kits on the window coverings for sale, and provided free retrofit kits to customers who wish to fix existing window treatments, says Ms. Cobb.
The reason for Wednesday's announcement was to "serve as a reminder to our customers that there is a risk of strangulation posed to young children by some window covering products, whether sold by Lowe’s or another company," says Cobb. "We want to urge everyone to check their blinds and make sure they're following the recommendations of the WCSC."
Lowe's is recalling about 6 million Roman shades, in all styles and sizes, and about 5 million roll-up blinds.
Lowe's stores and www.lowes.com carried Roman shades from at least 1999 through June 2010, and roll-up blinds from 1999 to January 2005, the company announced in a statement. They cost anywhere between $10 and $1,800.
WCSC recommends not using corded window coverings – Roman shades, mini-blinds, roll-up blinds, or anything else – in households with children. If you must, though, you are urged to "retrofit" the cords, using a repair kit to secure the cords so they don't swing loose.
Over a quarter-million repair kits have been sent out since the initial recall, including 85,000 in just the first two weeks, says Tim Bennett, a program manager with WCSC. "At one point it was actually unmanageable, and a whole line went down," Mr. Bennett says. "Our website had never seen anything like that." The Window Covering Manufacturers' Association spent months producing enough repair kits to meet the demand, he says.
If you own one of the recalled products, you are urged to stop using it immediately and contact the WCSC for free repair kits at (800) 506-4636 anytime or visit www.windowcoverings.org.
To prevent child strangulation by window covering cords, the WCSC advises parents and caregivers:
- Check all shades and blinds in the home: Make sure there are no accessible cords on the front, side, or back of the product.
- Keep cribs, beds, and furniture away from windows with blinds or shades – children can climb on the furniture and reach the cords.
- Keep loose cords inaccessible.
- Install tension devices in shades with looped bead chains or nylon cords, to keep the cord taut.
Roman shades with repair kits and roll-up blinds with release clips right below the head rail on the backside of the blind are not included in this recall.
The Roman shades have led to five fatalities and another 16 near-strangulations since 2006, and roll-up blinds were involved in three deaths since 2001, reported the CPSC last December. In the year since, another two children got themselves entangled in the cords of a Roman shade, but no further fatalities have been reported.