The Hidden Dangers in Your Old Blinds, Drapes and Window Coverings
Window coverings are essential for any home or office decoration and they usually play a key part of our fashion statement. Window coverings can help us save money and energy by preventing heat from coming in during the summer and escape during the winter. Blinds and drapes also aid us in protecting our floors, art and furniture from the damaging UV solar rays.
Yes, window coverings are great. But are you aware of the hidden dangers that your old blinds, drapes and window coverings may represent for you, your loved ones, and your pets?
Infants, toddlers and young children can become entangled in hanging and looped cords. Cords can also pose a safety hazard to many pets as well. The hidden dangers that lie in the cords of your old mini-blinds may not always be obvious.
The Window Covering Safety Council warns parents about the growing death toll among children from mini-blind cords and the strangulation hazards that window cords pose to children and pets. Their home page indicates that over 200 kids and infants between the ages of 6 months and 6 years have died since 1990 by strangling in window covering cords.
Nonetheless, many homes are still equipped with the old, unsafe mini-blinds. A simple solution to this problem will be to replace any blinds or draperies that were bought before 2001 with the newer and safer cordless window coverings. If replacing your blinds is not an immediate option, try to follow these useful tips to avoid injury to your kids:
- Move all baby furniture and toys away from windows and window cords
- Keep all window cords out of the reach of children and make sure that continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall
- Clip the cord to itself or to the window covering with a clamping device, such as a clothes pin or cord clip
- Retrofit window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with cord-repair devices/kits
For more useful information and tips visit The Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
Danger #2 indoor toxins
Effects from exposure to toxins are difficult to identify, it can be years before problems from exposure manifest themselves as a disease or chronic illness.
A 2004 report by the British Medical Journal states it is clear that environmental and lifestyle factors are key determinants of human disease accounting for perhaps 75% of most cancers. Estimates also indicate most Americans have somewhere between 400 and 800 chemicals stored in their bodies, typically in fat cells.
Old, as well as some new Blinds and Drapes may contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Phthalates, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)
VOCs are a group of chemicals that vaporize easily and bring gas pollutants into the home from a variety of sources. There are over 400 compounds in the VOC family which have been identified in the home. PVCs contain phthalates, a class of widely used industrial compounds. There are many phthalates with many uses, and just as many toxicological properties. These chemicals are used primarily to lengthen the life of fragrances and soften plastics. PBDEs are industrial toxic chemicals that have been used as flame-retardants.
Chronic exposure to these industrial toxic chemicals may cause eye and respiratory tract irritation, visual disorders, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, endocrine system damage, thyroid hormone disruption, permanent learning and memory impairment, behavioral changes, hearing deficits, delayed puberty onset, decreased sperm count, fetal malformations and, possibly, cancer.
Danger #3 Lead in vinyl Blinds
In 1996, it came to light that overseas manufacturers of non-glossy vinyl blinds (also called Venetian blinds or mini-blinds) were adding lead to the plastic as a stabilizer. Over time, as the mini-blinds were exposed to heat and light, the vinyl would deteriorate and lead dust would form on the surface.
Young children were at particular risk of lead poisoning because they would touch the blinds and then put their hands in their mouths. If you have vinyl blinds that might predate 1996, consider throwing them away, especially if there are young children in the home.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that you remove vinyl mini blinds from your home, especially if the blinds are located where children can easily touch them. Once the blinds are removed, you should make sure to replace them with new vinyl blinds that are labeled “No Lead Added” or “Non-Leaded Formula.” You may also choose to replace the blinds with new metal blinds, new wood blinds or other window coverings such as honey comb blinds. To learn more about lead poisoning prevention visit leadfreekids.org
Danger #4 Allergens, Dust Mites and Mold
Dust mites are primitive creatures measuring only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter that thrive in temperatures from 68 to 77 degrees and humidity levels from 70 to 80 percent.
Mold is part of the fungus family and there are thousands of different types of molds. Mold is composed of many cells that branch out and grow threads. A good climate for mold growth requires moisture, oxygen, and shade.
Studies reveal that more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, year-round allergies due in part to dust mites and mold. The most common symptom of chronic allergies is rhinitis (also called hay fever) – inflammation of the nasal membranes. It is exhibited in an itchy, runny nose, congestion and sneezing.
Other symptoms of non-seasonal allergies may include:
- Coughing, Post-nasal drip and Watery eyes
- Dark circles around the eyes (allergic “shiners”)
- Allergic conjunctivitis (swollen red membranes lining the eyes with crusty eyelids)
- Persistent rubbing of nose – especially in children
Chronic allergy triggers can hide in unexpected places and some window coverings are notorious allergens, dust mites, mold and dust collectors. Choose window coverings that are easy to keep dust-free, especially if any household members have dust allergies or asthma. For example, Plantation-style shutters with wide louvered slats are easier to dust than floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains.
Some of the hidden dangers in your old window coverings might be obvious, some are not.
It is important to stress that there is a simple and effective solution to this problem…
…replace your old blinds and drapes!