Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shredder Safety and Children

A new study just out from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates paper shredders are creating a new wave of injuries in the home. As concerns about identity theft rise, so dose the demand for paper shredders. More and more families are now using paper shredders in their homes to keep personal information and documents from being stolen. With paper shredders becoming more common, children are falling victim to these machines with greater frequency.

It is what doctors have deemed to be the new "hidden hazzard" in the home, and this especially true for children.

Dr. George Flotin of the NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital says, "Paper shredders can cause devastating injuries to children and it can happen very quickly and it can happen even with parents supervising children."

Nearly three years ago, a paper shredder got a hold of three of 2-year-old Talen Broadfoot's fingers. Three of his digits were nearly ripped off when he was helping his mom shred paper.

"It just came up and I guess it just got a hold of one little finger and then just took all three of his middle fingers on his left hand." Lisa Broadfoot explains.

Since 2000, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has received 50 reports of children and adults being injured by paper shredders.

The study finds that children under the age of 5 run the greatest risk of injury because the openings on many shredders are not narrow enough to prevent their fingers from getting pulled in.

Until recently, shredders have been primarily used in businesses. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said the risk of identity theft has changed that. In the past five years, home shredder sales have increased by 35%. But the standards for manufacturers have yet to catch up.

The CPSC investigation of the circumstances surrounding the injuries by paper shredders found that, surprisingly, injuries among children occurred frequently while the children were under adult supervision. Doctors say that Paper shredders should be kept unplugged and out of children's reach. They also urge parents not to let young children use or be near shredders at any time, adding that the No. 1 way to avoid an injury to a child's fingers is to keep them away from shredders altogether.

Shredder blades can also be hard to separate. Several injuries reported to the CPSC, involved children that were taken to hospitals with their hands still in the shredders. In one case, doctors had to use the building maintenance staff's tools to remove the machine.

"The voluntary standard that applies to paper shredders is that the opening can't allow a 12-year-old's finger to fit inside the paper shredder," CPSC spokeswoman Patty Davis said.

The CPSC is working to create new standards to make openings smaller and set the blades farther away from the opening.

Some paper shredder manufacturers have already taken steps to minimize dangers by making shredders with smaller openings. Some have also added an "off" switch to prevent the machine from automatically activating the blades when an object passes through the opening.
Fellowes has recently come out with a light duty shredder that is equipped with "safe sense" technology and is said to sense when small hands are near, and automatically turn off. See the New Fellowes DS-1.

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