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Opening Remarks, WCMA Stakeholders Meeting - Tuesday November 9, 2010, Bethesda, MD

September 17, 2012

To members of the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, window covering retailers, consumer advocates, and representatives of Health Canada and the European Union, good morning and welcome to CPSC headquarters.

Ralph, thank you for providing me with a few minutes to speak at this important stakeholder's meeting.

I know that time has been dedicated already this morning to discussing processes and procedures. In a moment, I will share my expectations for the revision to the ANSI standard, but we must recognize our motivation for being here today:

A young child is likely to die this month in a window cord incident.

And a young child is likely to die every month that this standard is being worked on.

With all my heart, I hope that this doesn't come true, but it is what our statistics predict.

One month it may be a toddler who wanders over to a roll up blind and wraps the exposed cord around his neck.

Another month it may be a baby in a crib that is positioned too close to a window who falls into an exposed vertical blind cord.

No matter what the situation or circumstance is these tragedies are preventable. They have been preventable in the past, they are preventable now, and they will be preventable in the future.

I trust that we can all agree that the three keys to prevention are a combination of new and vastly improved standards, education, and repair kits for recalled products.

As Linda [Kaiser] can attest, the rate of deaths and near-deaths involving window covering cords has been unchanged for far too many years. The work that begins today must conclude next year with standards that enhance the safety of all window coverings.

When I say enhance, I mean design out the risk of strangulation to children. I'm looking for a full commitment in the important work that you all are undertaking to eliminate the risk of strangulation.

Let the past not represent a prologue to the future. Chart a new course today-a course that is more inclusive. A course that promises to eliminate, not just mitigate the risk of harm to children.

I commend the WCMA and its members for publicly announcing, during Window Covering Safety Month, your commitment to not only a comprehensive upgrade of the standards, but also a self-imposed deadline for balloting the new standards.

The approach that you are taking-an approach that includes tackling each of the remaining hazards all at once-and soliciting stakeholder input on the front end, indeed, is the right approach.

I will be asking for frequent updates from Rana and Renae, two dedicated staff members here at CPSC, who have years of expertise with window covering safety. I expect to hear from Rana and Renae that the steering committee and each of six working groups are remaining true to the principles of full stakeholder participation and complete elimination of the strangulation hazard.

This has not been the tradition of the ANSI/WCMA A100 committee. However, this must be your mission starting now.

Where there are deaths, especially deaths involving young children, I have little patience for ideas that advance the notion of safety being disregarded. This will not happen again. This is your chance to get the standards right, as well as do right by the millions of families using your products.

The window coverings that you make and sell are an essential part of the interior design of American homes. I speak from experience when I say that quality blinds and shades can bring style and privacy to a home.

We must work together to create new and improved standards, so that blinds and shades no longer have a hidden hazard.

You can do even better than the current standard. I know you can.

All regulatory options remain on the table for the Commission. At the same time, there is a lot of know-how, entrepreneurial spirit, and technical expertise represented in this room today. I believe the working groups are well positioned to create outstanding proposals for the steering committee to bring to fruition.

For the past year, the Commission has recommended to parents with young children that they go cordless in their home. We know that this is the best approach; but in these tough economic times, not every family can afford to go cordless.

In turn, we need all of you to develop better standards that eliminate the hazard, and at the same time, continue to bring affordable window covering options to the marketplace.

If new designs and input from consumer advocates are respected and incorporated into the new standard, then the new standard has the potential for widespread support.

This approach is consistent with the views I expressed to many of you when you were in my office five months ago.

Back in June, we discussed a trilateral approach to promoting window covering safety on two continents. Our continued commitment to this approach is seen today with the presence of our friends from Health Canada and the EU.

The potential for the work you are doing to help to keep children in more than 25 countries safe is just extra motivation.

Let me conclude by saying that CPSC fully supports the work that starts today, and I look forward to standing with all of you next October, for Window Covering Safety Month 2011, as we celebrate the balloting of a new, lifesaving window covering standard.

Good luck and thank you for your commitment to the safety of children.

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