Saturday, November 07, 2020

Twice as many Children Die in Fatal Glass Table Top Accidents as in Firearms Accidents



Image of glass tabletop, wikimedia commons tangerineduel 2 april, 2015 CC 4.0, cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

On 26 July, 2020, a paper titled: Glass table injuries: A silent public health problem was published in the American Journal of Surgery

The paper detailed an examination of how many accidents involving glass tables occurred in the United States, how severe the injuries from such accidents were, and the distribution of injuries by age. The annual number of fatalities from accidents involving glass tables was projected to be about 400.

Most people do not consider glass tables to be a significant risk for accidents. 400 deaths a year sounds like a lot. It is about .13 per 100,000, out of a total of 731.9 deaths per 100,000 total. 400 is .00018 of the total number of deaths in the nation each year.

The results of the article have been widely published in the public media. From

Bonne's group found more than 3,200 U.S. cases of glass table-related injuries requiring trauma center care occurring between 2009 and 2015. The data was collected from the 96 sample hospitals included in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database. More than half of the injuries were traced to faulty glass tables, the researchers noted.

Multiplying that by the almost 5,000 emergency care centers nationwide, Bonne's team estimated there are about 13,800 U.S. cases of severe injury tied to glass tables each year.

The team also looked more closely at the 24 cases that their Level 1 trauma center treated between 2001 and 2016. In this smaller grouping, the investigators found that half of their patients experienced injuries to their deep organs, upper torso, abdomen or joint cavities and required surgery. About 8% died within a month of injury. Most of the injuries were suffered by children younger than age 7 or adults in their early 20s.

Access to the article is here. A one time read costs $35.95.  I contacted the lead author, Dr. Stephanie Bonne, and she graciously sent me a read-only copy.

From the article, page 10, supplied by Dr. Stephanie Bonne: 

Similarly, if severe injury numbers are extrapolated, there are an estimated 2.6 severe injuries per hospital in the United States, annually. This is a total of 13,802 severe injuries in the United States, annually. This is actually slightly less than the Consumer Product Safety Commission's estimate of 20,700 annual injuries (9). However, either number is extremely high. If our case fatality rate of 8% is applied to this number, we can estimate about 400 deaths annually in the United States occur annually due to individuals sustaining severe injuries from faulty glass tables.

Dr. Bonne clarified the 8% fatality rate was calculated for the entire sample, not just the 24 cases at the one trauma center.

The study has a bar chart showing the distribution of cases by age. From the chart, it was simple to obtain good distribution numbers. 

42% of the accidents were for children. 13.9% were for children under the age of five.  The projection, from the study, is for 400 fatalities from glass table accidents per year. 

That translates to 168 children aged 0-17 who die in fatal accidents involving glass table tops per year. 55 of those children are projected to be under the age of five. 

The study numbers were done for 2009 to 2015. 

During that period, there were an average of 86 children who died in accidents involving firearms per year (601 for 7 years). There were an average of 24.4 children who died each year, on average, under the age of five (178 for 7 years) in accidents involving firearms.

Images from CDC WISQARS database, created, cropped, and scaled by Dean Weingarten

According to the projections in the study, children are about twice as likely to die from an accident involving a glass table top, as they are to die from an accident involving a firearm each year. 

Children under the age of five are slightly more than twice as likely to die in an accident involving a glass table top than they are to die from an accident involving a firearm, in a given year.

The firearm numbers have changed in recent years. Fatal firearm accidents have been trending downward. The average total fatal firearm accidents from 2009 to 2016 was 536. 

In 2018, the last year we have numbers for, there were 458, quite close to the projected number for fatal glass table top accidents. 

Image from CDC WISQARS database, created cropped and scaled by Dean Weingarten

The point of this comparison is to show how successful the gun culture has been in reducing fatal firearm accidents. In the last 86 years, the rate of fatal firearm accidents has been reduced by 94%.  The rate of fatal fire arm accidents is now in the range of fatal accidents from household furniture.

The rate of fatal firearms accidents for children is about one half that of fatal accidents of glass table tops for children. 

The rate of fatal firearms accidents for children is less than the  rate of fatal bicycle accidents for children. 

The number of children under five who die by drowning in five gallon buckets is comparable to the number of children under five who die in fatal firearm accidents.

The number of people who are deliberately killed with firearms by homicide or suicide is not addressed in this article. 

The general indications are the presence or absence of firearms has little effect on overall suicide or homicide rates. Extremely restrictive laws on firearms may reduce suicide or homicide with firearms. Those laws have little effect on overall homicide or suicide rates.

©2020 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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