End-of-the-year holidays can be a dangerous time for many Americans, a USA TODAY analysis of more than 32,000 product-related injuries shows.
Every year, from Christmas through Dec. 31, more than 6,000 people on average end up in emergency rooms because of holiday products or activities that cause serious injuries, according to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which collects and publishes consumer product-related injuries.
USA TODAY analyzed data reported to the commission by 100 emergency departments across the country over the past five years.
“Celebrations are always a big risk factor,” said Dr. Ryan Stanton, emergency room physician practicing in Kentucky and director of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Whether it’s fireworks or alcohol, we see some people not making the best decisions and forgetting how sensitive and fragile the human body is.”
Fireworks caused the biggest increase in injuries from Christmas to New Year’s Eve compared with the first weeks of December.
The anonymous descriptions of hospital visits provided by the emergency departments show that backyard fireworks during the end-of-the-year festivities resulted in dozens of facial burns, finger amputations and cuts.
In its annual fireworks report published in June this year, the CPSC warned of a significant increase in fireworks-related injuries. During the calendar year 2021, at least nine people died and an estimated 11,500 were injured in incidents involving fireworks, a 25% increase compared with 2006.
“The vast majority of fireworks-related accidents occur due to fireworks misuse,” Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Safety & Education Foundation, said in an email. “Carefully read and follow all instructions, use fireworks only outdoors in an area free of debris and dry brush, never let children handle fireworks, and keep a bucket of water handy in case of an emergency.”
Hoverboards and powered skateboards and scooters – popular Christmas gifts for children – were responsible for 12 daily injuries on average from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31, the data shows. That’s six times as many injuries as during an average day in the first weeks of December.
Emergency physicians reported falls, fires, bruises, neck fractures, displaced shoulders, dislocated elbows and strained wrists among the hoverboard-caused injuries.
CPSC data shows that at least 23 hoverboard recalls had been issued in the U.S. in the past six years, representing more than 870,700 units pulled off shelves because they posed a danger or risk of injury. Most were recalled because of lithium-ion battery packs overheating, which could cause the product to catch fire and explode.
Holiday ski trips were also responsible for an average of 6 daily injuries resulting in ER visits, according to the CPSC data. The ER reports show that more than 40% of those injuries are fractures and 20% strains, and that 3 out of 10 of the incidents involve the knee and the lower leg.
Other holiday-related injuries reported include toy guns with projectiles, quad bikes, slicers, choppers and knives, candles and fishing equipment.
“CPSC believes that many injuries can be prevented which is why we remind consumers to take the necessary precautions at all times, especially where we know many of the injuries and worse occur,” said Judy Echavez, the commission’s spokesperson. “People may still be distracted as they approach the end of the holiday season, but we urge people to still observe our seasonal safety tips for the holidays.”
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