Top 10 In-Home Hazards

Hopefully your holidays were relaxing and pleasant, and occurred without incident. Sadly, that isn’t always the case, as Christmas lights can cause fires. Christmas lights are one of the top ten in-home hazards. The top ten, in no particular order, are as follows:

  • Holiday Lights – In 2006, the CPSC announced a recall of more than 2.3 million Hobby Lobby Christmas Light sets, as they posed a fire and shock hazard. Like many other similar brands of Christmas lights, they were manufactured in China, and violated the standards set forth by Underwriters Laboratories, an independent product safety certification organization that sets standards and tests products for safety. The violation of these standards is cause for an immediate recall.
  • Adult Sleepwear due to flammability – There have been numerous recent recalls of various clothing items due to flammability issues. In 1975, the CPSC published and evaluated the Flammable Fabrics Act (originally established in 1953 – you might think they would have gotten it right by now), but the majority of the language involved children’s clothing, and very little was said about adult sleepwear. Ridiculously, because of the lack of an adequate standard, adult sleepwear is now commonly made from flammable materials.
  • Air Conditioner Fires – According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2008 there were at least 408,000 reported cases of residential fires that resulted in 2,780 deaths and 13,560 injuries. At least 4,200 of these fires were caused by portable air conditioning and heating devices. Eighty-five percent of the fires occurred because of electrical malfunctions, and the majority of reported cases involved window units. Fires caused by Air Conditioning units are usually due to inadequate wiring or poor maintenance.

  • Baby Strollers and Slings – These statistics are sad. Many stroller recalls are due to design defects, causing lacerated hands and fingers, some even leading to amputations in both adults and children. In early 2010, Britax recalled 14,800 strollers in the U.S. and Canada because the strollers’ hinges posed the threat of laceration and amputation to fingertips. Graco Children’s Products recalled more than 1.5 million for the same type of danger. Another danger that seems to follow the baby stroller, is the risk of strangulation. Lacerations and strangulations….can anyone make a safe stroller? With slings, the danger is that of suffocation. Infantino recalled more than one million sling carriers because they presented a serious suffocation threat to babies. Tragically, at least three cases of death were reported.
  • Bicycles – Another popular holiday gift…a bicycle. Styles and materials have changed considerably over the past 40 years, due to the intended use of bikes have changed. As the use has changed, so have the policies regarding their safety and inspection. There have been at least sixteen bicycle recalls in the past two years that were related to inadequate frames and parts that could cause accident and injuries.
  • Recreational Vehicles (ATVs) – Well, let’s narrow that down to Chinese recreational vehicles. Since 2000, fourteen all-terrain vehicle models have been recalled. Amazingly (or maybe not so amazingly), all of these recalled models were built in China, Taiwan or Vietnam. In 2007, the CPSC launched an investigation into this trend. What was discovered was that the manufactures failed to meet any of the voluntary safety agreements relating to ATVs. Units were recalled because they were missing basic safety components such as brakes, stop engine switches and tire pressure labels. Now I’m not about to say that there aren’t inherent dangers when it comes to ATVs, but when you add that to the dangers caused by poor designs and manufacturing processes, your risk becomes significantly greater.
  • Electric Blankets – Another crazy statistic with this one. From 2002 to 2005, the CPSC recalled more than 500,000 electric blankets due to fire hazards caused by defective wiring, leading to overheating and short circuits. Of significance, Family Dollar was fined $100,000 for selling defective electric blanket and failing to report issues such as short circuits, smoke damage and fire to the CPSC.
  • Children’s Product Containing Lead – How crazy is it that since August 2010, there have already been more than 20 recalls involving products that use more lead than is allowed by CPSC standards. The lowest lead content and lead paint limits in the world have now been established, and the CPSC is also working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to track shipments in transit from other countries, thereby increasing seizure of dangerous imported toys. With all of this in place, why is it that we are still having a problem?
  • Home Power Saws – The injury rate remains high for home power saws, despite the fact that the CPSC regularly updates and amends regulations and laws regarding their production. It has been reported that there are as many as 86,204 injuries caused each year by home power saws. Granted, most of these are due to consumer misuse, as opposed to design, but there are still injuries caused by the design or manufacturing defects. Of interest, there is currently a petition, one in which the CPSC has yet to make a ruling on, that alleges there is existing technology that will detect when a saw blade has connected, or is close to connecting with a finger or hand. Once detected, this technology automatically shuts off the saw. I think I saw something like that in a movie recently. It would be a very “handy” feature if the technology exists.
  • Washing Machines and Dryers – In 2010, General Electric recalled approximately 181,000 dryers because of reports of incidences involving flames shooting out of the front loading area. Flames shooting out of the dryer – that’s just plain crazy. While not as popular as the “dryer” fires, dishwashers have their problems as well.

While so many of these risks and injuries are associated with manufacturer defect and design, there are still plenty of injuries that are caused by user error. I’m just saying….be a little more care, use things for their intended purpose, there MIGHT be a few less injuries.