Home paper shredders pose serious injury risk to toddlers

As our environments change over time with technology, pediatric emergency specialists are continuously challenged to observe possible trends and prevent more injuries by educating the public. In a new case report published in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, researchers at New York University School of Medicine discuss the serious injury risks posed by paper shredders, which have become increasingly common household items.

"It's a dangerous piece of machinery and leaving it in the home unattended and accessible to young children could result in a serious hand injury," said George Foltin, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at New York University School of Medicine and Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Bellevue Hospital Center. "If you have one, it needs to be unplugged and out of children's reach."

The authors also summarize the findings of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) recent investigation into home paper shredder injuries. The article discusses several points of concern including the ages of injured. Twenty-two (71%) of the 31 home paper shredder injuries involved children under 12 years of age and over half of those injuries involved children under 3 years of age. Most of the injuries that resulted in amputations occurred mostly to children under 6 years of age.

Easy access to the shredder and to the blades itself was also a major area of concern. The CPSC assessment of sample home paper shredders ranged from 13 to 16.5 inches, allowing easy access to toddlers. Additionally, every machine tested by the CPSC was found to potentially allow a child's fingers to contact the cutting blades. Moreover, the control switches on many models did not have on/off switches. Some models even had "auto" settings where the blades are activated when papers are placed in the opening. The report also found that no machine tested had a release mechanism to allow separation of the blades from one another, which made it difficult for emergency personnel to remove the children's fingers from the blades.

In anticipation of the growing risk, researchers concluded the article with a call to manufacturers to redesign the shredders to make them safer and to display clear warnings directly on the machines. In addition, the authors recommend that pediatricians ask parents whether they have a shredder in the home and, if so, advise them to keep it unplugged and out-of-reach (above toddler height) and to never allow children to use the shredder, even under direct supervision.

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The authors of the new study are: Ramona C. Warren, M.D., M.P.H., and George Foltin, M.D.

The CPSC paper shredder safety alert is available online at www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/5127.pdf


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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