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Home Is Where the Hazard Is

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There's no place like home - for injuries, that is.

Two new studies by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that the home is the single most common location for children in the United States to be injured. The studies show that residential injuries remain a leading cause of death in children and adolescents, particularly black children.

And days before the studies were released, a government agency released a list of potentially hazardous household products that have caused injuries and deaths, citing the public's lack of awareness about recall notices and safety warnings.

``Children's health is inextricably linked with all housing, from the most affluent neighborhoods to the poorest slums,'' said Bruce Lanphear, M.D., who lead one of the studies, from Cincinnati Friday.

Using data from the National Death Index and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, Lanphear's study found that about 2,800 children died each year between 1985 and 1997 as a result of unintentional injury in the home. Fatal residential injuries declined about 25 percent per year during that 12-year period, the data show. The 2,800 deaths represented 69 percent of deaths in children and adolescents in the United States, Lanphear said.

The death rate was almost twice as high in black children compared to white children - 7 per 100,000 population vs. 3.3 per 100,000 population, respectively.

Lanphear said the study did not draw any conclusions as to why black children have a higher risk for residential injury because it was a general overview of statistical data.

The rate of injury was highest among all children younger than 5, with boys at higher risk than girls, according to the study. The leading causes of death were fires or burns, submersions or suffocations, poisonings and falls.

The other study, led by Dr. Kieran J. Phelan, found that 78,000 children were hospitalized each year for residential injuries between 1993 and 1999, with falls the leading cause of injury. The study also found that injury rates declined by 29 percent during the period.

``These studies show that efforts to reduce the burden of injury for children and adolescents should be targeted to the home,'' Phelan said in the study.

Despite notices, warnings and recalls, consumers continue to use products that have the potential to seriously injure or kill, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission recently unveiled a new list of common hazardous household products that were either recalled or received attention for not meeting safety standards.

A partial list of products found in many homes and the hazards they pose include:

Old power tools made before the 1980s may not have safety features that prevent electrocution.

These old tools may also have frayed wires or unsafe housings.

Extension cords may present a fire or shock hazard because they may have undersized wires, loose connections, faulty components or improper grounding. In a recent year, electrical cords were involved in about 5,200 fires resulting in 40 deaths, according to the CPSC report. The CPSC recommends using cords that have the label from an independent testing lab such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories).

Window blinds with pull cords that make a loop can strangle children.

The CPSC says about 160 children have been strangled to death by looping cords since 1991. They recommend that consumers cut the loops and install a safety tassel at the end of each cord.

Halogen torchiere floor lamps can cause fires when combustibles such as drapes come too close to the bulb.

More than 40 million lamps made before 1997 were recalled because they have no wire or glass guard to protect against fire. The CPSC report said that there were 290 fires and 25 deaths related to halogen lamps since 1992.

Old cribs with more than 2 3/8 inches between slats or corner posts or cut-offs on the headboard or footboard present suffocation and strangulation standards.

The CPSC estimates that about 30 deaths per year occur in cribs due to broken or missing parts, many of which are older, used models.

Hairdryers without immersion protection devices can cause electrocution if they fall into water.

Any hairdryer made before the early 1990s may not have built-in shock protection and should be replaced with a new one with a large rectangular plug and the mark of a recognized testing laboratory, the CPSC recommends.

Disposable and novelty lighters that are not child-resistant should be discarded.

In a recent year, 2,400 fires resulting in 70 deaths and 480 injuries were attributed to children under age 5 playing with lighters, according to the CPSC report.

Drawstrings around the neck on children's jackets and sweatshirts can catch and strangle children.

The commission said 23 deaths and 56 non-fatal accidents from drawstrings occurred between 1985 and 2001. It recommends that all neck drawstrings be pulled out or cut on children's jackets and sweatshirts.

Another common household item banned last month by the CPSC were candles with lead-cored wicks. In a separate report, the CPSC said a small percentage of votive, pillar and container candles currently available use lead wicks. Lead is used to slow the burn rate and prevent mushrooming of the tip of the wick.

However, burning the candles emits lead into the air, which can be inhaled or ingested by children handling or mouthing objects on which lead particles have settled, the report said. Lead poisoning in children has been associated with behavioral problems, learning disabilities, hearing problems and growth retardation.

These products may be in any home,'' said commission chairman Hal Stratton.They may be sold at yard sales or donated to charity or thrift shops. Some of them can be fixed, but most simply need to be destroyed.''

In 1998, the commission found that many thrift stores were selling recalled, hazardous products, according to the report.

We don't want to see deaths or serious injuries caused by previously recalled products or by products that don't meet current safety standards,'' Stratton said.We want to prevent these needless tragedies.''


(The Cox web site is at )

c.2003 Cox News Service

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