WASHINGTON - Foreign-made plastic miniblinds containing lead sulfate as a stabilizer will deteriorate in hot sunlight and produce a caulk-like dust that is harmful when ingested, the Consumer Product Safety Commission said June 25. The announcement marked the conclusion of a CPSC investigation into questions from health departments in North Carolina and Arizona about the presence of lead in the environment from the blinds. The blinds in question are imported from China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Mexico.
Some 600 million sets of the miniblinds in use, with 25 million imported each year, the CPSC said.
Small amounts of lead have been used by foreign miniblind manufacturers to provide the vinyl with colorfastness and rigidity.
In response, United States miniblind manufacturers said their lead-free miniblinds will be available by August, at a cost 10-15 percent higher than the foreign-made items, according to the Window Covering Safety Council in New York.
A North Carolina epidemiologist said earlier that the state had been able to document several children suffering from lead poisoning ``for which we have been unable to diagnose any other form of exposure.''
Children playing around blinds were considered at risk by the agency, which prompted CPSC to recommend to parents of children under 6 years old to discard their old miniblinds.
The Window Covering Safety Council described the health threat as overstated.
Besides announcing the marketing of U.S.-made, lead-free miniblinds, the council also suggested that an annual washing of foreign-made miniblinds with warm water and phosphate-based detergent would assure those products' safety.
Both CPSC and the window covering council said a child would have to wipe a dusty window blind with his hand, then place the hand in his mouth each day for between 15 and 30 days to reach the 10 microgram-per-deciliter level CPSC considers dangerous for young children.
The window council said a far greater danger to children is the risk of strangulation from entanglement in miniblind valence cords.