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Lawnmower Injury Risk Uncut Over 15 Years


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- America's grassy yards remain a dangerous jungle for children, with the rate of lawnmower-caused lacerations, burns, fractures, sprains, strains and amputations unaffected by the introduction of design safety standards.

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Aug. 7 -- America's grassy yards remain a dangerous jungle for children, with the rate of lawnmower-caused lacerations, burns, fractures, sprains, strains and amputations unaffected by the introduction of design safety standards.

About 9,400 lawn mower-related injuries occur in children 20 years old and younger annually in the United States, amounting to a rate that has not changed for 15 years, according to a retrospective study published this month in Pediatrics.

"Injuries that are associated with lawnmowers can be devastating," wrote David Vollman of the department of pediatrics at Ohio State University. "The relative consistency of the number of lawnmower-related injuries over the 15-year study period is evidence that current prevention strategies are inadequate."

Vollman and a colleague analyzed data from a database of the U.S. Product Safety Commission covering the period from 1990 to 2004. The database collects injury information from a sample of hospitals that provide 24-hour emergency services.

Overall, they found a rate of 11.1 lawn mower-related injuries treated at a hospital per 100,000 U.S. children each year.

There were two peaks in the age distribution -- one at one to two years and the other at 15 years. Nearly 80% of the injured children were boys.

Lacerations led the list of injuries at 41.2% followed by soft tissue injury (including sprains and strains) at 21.4%, burns at 14.5%, and fracture at 10.3%. Amputation of hands and feet or fingers and toes accounted for 5% of the injuries.

The most commonly affected areas of the body were the hand or finger (34%), lower extremity (18.9%), foot or toe (17.7%), eye or face (10.6%) and upper extremity injuries (7.4%).

More than 7% of pediatric mower-related injuries required hospitalization, which is more than twice the rate for injuries from consumer products overall, the authors noted.

Amputations (31.9%), lacerations (28.8%), and fractures (26.0%) accounted for almost 87% of injuries among children who were admitted or transferred to another hospital. In contrast, lacerations (42.3%), soft tissue injuries (23.3%), and burns (16.9%) predominated among children who were treated and released to home from the emergency department.

Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for young people, according to the CDC.

Ride-on mowers accounted for 21% of mower-related injuries while other power mowers accounted for another 23%. As might be expected, summer months, especially May and June, had the most mower-related injuries.

The lawnmower industry uses voluntary standards to improve safety. Based on the study findings, the authors recommended more effective implementation of the standards and several improvements:

•The no-mow-in-reverse standards should be revised. All ride-on lawn mowers should have a no-mow-in-reverse default feature with a manual override option.

•The most common mechanism of burn injury was contact with a hot surface on the mower. Redesign of mowers to shield better the hot mower parts from access by young children is the best solution to this problem.

The American Pediatrics Association recommendations include:

•that children younger than six years should be kept indoors during mowing,

•that children not be allowed to ride as passengers on mowers or be towed behind,

•and that children should receive safety education and be supervised before being allowed to mow alone.

Primary source: Pediatrics Source reference: Vollman D, et al "Epidemiology of Lawn Mower-Related Injuries to Children in the United States, 1990-2004" Pediatrics 2006; 118:273-278.

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