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Flatscreen Risks: More And More Kids Hurt By Falling TVs

Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Televisions are omnipresent.

That may look like a quote pulled from Don DeLillo’s "White Noise," but in fact, it is the opening sentence in a study, released today by the journal Pediatrics, that examines the epidemiology of injuries suffered by kids from falling televisions.

The authors of the study used Consumer Product Safety Commission data to perform their investigation of fallen TV-related cases  – or “tip over injuries” — that were incurred by children younger than 18 who were treated in U.S. emergency rooms from 1990 to 2011. Their findings were striking: The annual number of injured children averaged over 17,000, and the rate at which falling TVs are causing significant harm to American children increased by 95.3 % during the study period.

Among the statistics brought to light by the study: The majority of kids injured by toppling TVs are under five, and most tip-over injuries happen to children's heads and necks.

According to the study, more than half of US households contain three or more TVs – a number that has more than doubled since 1990.  But the authors place more blame on the location of television sets within homes, rather than their growing multiplicity, for the climbing frequency of tip-over injuries.  Their reasoning comes from their finding that almost 53% of the TV injuries they considered were attributed to an airborne television set, whereas approximately 38% of them came from kids striking television sets.

From an article posted by BBC News:

"We speculate that changes in the location of TV placement in the home may be responsible," said the study.

"Older TVs may be relegated to less safe locations in the home, such as on dressers or other unsuitable furniture."

As the old, bulky black boxes of the 90s are condemned to the surfaces of typically tippy furniture, the study’s authors speculate, they are replaced by newer, flat-screen counterparts.  The lighter weight of these modern models may give the impression that they come with a reduced risk for TV-related injury.

However, the authors speculate that this lighter weight, coupled with less cumbersome design of flat-screens, actually make the newer TVs more prone to tipping.

An NBC Today post elaborated on the issue of flat screen TVs and the increasing frequency of falling TV injuries. The post features quotes from an Ohio pediatrician describing his reaction to the study’s findings:

The rising number of injuries “dispels that myth that as flat-screens came onto the market, we would see a decline in TV tip-overs," Smith said. "We’re seeing the opposite.”

The study did not differentiate between injuries caused by falling flat-screen televisions and the older, heavier cathode ray tube sets. But Smith speculated that injuries may be increasing as families buy new TVs, and move older ones onto unsuitable furniture.

“What we think is going on is as families purchase a new flat-screen TV, the older TV is being displaced to other parts of the home where it’s placed in a less-safe position, such as on top of dresser, chest of drawers or armoire,” Smith said.

The study, he said, is a call for parents to secure their televisions and for a strengthening of stability standards for TVs. There are various products to make TVs safer – straps, Velcro, L braces and mounts for flat-screens.

Readers, tips?

This program aired on July 22, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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