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Call Kurtis Investigates: Dangerous Window Coverings

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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TRACY (CBS13) – The Hawk family believes some pictures are worth far more than 1,000 words.

Holding one of the last photos ever taken of their 16-month-old son Jacob — one of three triplets born just seconds apart — the tears begin to flow.

“This is something that lives with you forever,” Jessie Hawk said.

This month marks five years since Michelle Hawk returned to Jacob’s bedroom after his nap to find the inner cord of their window blinds wrapped around the toddler’s neck.

For the last decade, the federal government has struggled with the window covering industry to find a standard that will minimize the roughly 12 strangulation deaths reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission each year, a Call Kurtis investigation has learned.

In the United States, a child is killed the same way about once every two weeks, according to a 1997 report by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Now Michelle Hawk and others are pushing for tougher standards they believe many parents don’t realize they need, she said.

Linda Kaiser, a mother from St. Louis who lost her 1-year-old twin daughter Cheyenne Rose more than a decade ago, started Parents for Window Blind Safety, a nonprofit organization that educates parents on the dangers and pushes for stricter standards.

Kaiser told CBS13 children can die in just seconds — and in silence.

“You can’t hear anything,” she said. “I know parents that have been in the same room with a child who strangled and didn’t know their child was strangling.”

Just months ago, tangled window blinds claimed the life of Sacramento 3-year-old Voxie Beckett.

More than 50 million blinds and shades have been recalled since 2009 over safety issues.

Despite being among the largest recalls in u-s history, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has gone on record calling “the status quo concerning the safety of window coverings” unacceptable.

The CPSC sent a letter to the Window Covering Manufacturers Association in June 2011 wanting a standard that eliminates — not just reduces — strangulation risks.

The WCMA responded in November saying, “No standard can eliminate all possible risk.”

The industry, however, did promised more performance testing and a warning label for corded products.

Kaiser said it’s not enough.

“I don’t know any child that reads a warning label before they get hurt,” she said.

Jessie Hawk believes families like his are in a race against the clock.

“How many kids need to die before the message gets through?” he said.

The WMCA declined invitations to interview on camera about standards, but its safety organization, the Window Covering Safety Association, told us, “Consumers should install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children.”

The Hawks have removed all blinds from their home.

Day-to-day life is still a challenge for the Hawks, but they’ve taken small steps to make their home safe for their children Tyler and Erica.

Still, they’re reminded every day of the joy Jacob brought them.

“Every milestone Tyler and Erica make, [we] think of Jacob,” they said. “When Tyler and Eric started kindergarten, Jacob should have started kindergarten.”

They hope you’ll learn from Jacob, who was ripped from their lives far too early.

“I don’t want any other parent to live through what we lived through,” Hawk said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission declined our request for an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson said the commission wants continued progress toward stronger standards and want exposed loop cords gone in blinds altogether.

The WCSC offers free retrofit kits which helps anchor loose cords. CPSC calls the kits a short-term fix, but you can get yours on their website.

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