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Blind cords cause safety hazard for hundreds of toddlers

Hundreds of children have been injured or killed after being strangled by blind chords.

In three weeks on November 22nd, it will have been eight months since Macon toddler Carlene Rigby died from blind cord strangulation.

It was on a Sunday in March that Bibb County deputies say Rigby's father went to wake his daughter for church and found her in bed with the cord from the window blinds wrapped around her neck.

Her death was initially ruled a homicide when an investigation began.

Last month, District Attorney David Cooke ruled her death an accident and stated that her parents would not face charges.

It is an accident that happens all too often across the country, similar to what happened to the Walla family of Wisconsin, as told by an ABC News report.

The Walla family of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, all nine of them, loves to make videos of everything they do. Lots of laughs and happy moments.

But for 17-year old Gavin Walla and his parents there's one video that stands out, taking them back to a time when Gavin was a toddler and almost died in an all-too common at-home accident.

Gavin's mother Nicci was making a video of two of her other children, her twins. She swings the camera around to catch a horrifying image of Gavin.

He was hanging by the neck from the pull cords on a set of window blinds. Silently strangling.

"I somehow got Gavin off the window blinds, but I don't actually remember lifting him off," Nicci said.

Gavin was left with a welt across his neck, but that was all. Today he is a senior in high school.

"I'm glad that it's out there," Gavin said of the video. "Saved the lives of other children that have been fortunate enough to have parents who have seen that video."

But, unfortunately, since the day of Gavin's accident almost 14 years ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates well over 100 American children have died, somehow caught in window blind cords.

"I see decades, and I'm talking decades, about children once a month, getting hanged to death by these products and it's gotta stop," said Elliot Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Kaye says cordless versions solve the problem, but that the industry continues to make and sell the more dangerous set with cords.

"I think it's disgusting," Kaye said. "I really do."

Executives of the big three American companies that sell window blinds would not agree to appear in our report. Nor would the head of the window blind trade group, Ralph Vasami.

The industry says it has introduced a range of safety features that have reduced the number of deaths. But it says the most important step is not to ban blinds with cords but to educate parents that blinds with cords should not be in homes with children.

Yet, working with ABC affiliates across the country who went shopping for window blinds, ABC News found that message is not getting through in many places.

In some cases, store employees were helpful. But in many others, employees did not seem to have been very well trained about the danger of corded window blinds.

The industry says banning corded ones causes people to keep older, unsafe blinds. It also says the elderly and those with disabilities need cords.

Manufacturers insist deaths and injuries are going down with an increase in education.

Target and IKEA stores have already stopped selling corded window blinds. Home Depot, Lowes and Wal-Mart vow to phase out corded window blinds by 2018. Still, that's three years away.

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