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Lighter TVs injuring more children

60 percent of households have flat-screens, but most adults don’t secure them.

The number of Dayton-area children suffering broken bones, lacerations and other injuries from tipped over flat-panel televisions has spiked dramatically over the past several years, including a serious accident that sent a German Twp. woman’s twin toddlers to the emergency room earlier this year.

The 18-month-old brother and sister were apparently trying to reach a TV on top of a chest of drawers when the furniture and the TV came down on top of them, pinning both children to the floor, said German Twp. Fire Chief Tim Holman, whose emergency crew was called to the scene on March 4.

“One kid had lot of pain in the chest and the other had some cuts on his head,” Holman said. “The injuries weren’t life-threatening, but we flew them to (Dayton Children’s Medical Center) just to be safe because they were so small. It was hard to tell the extent of their injuries.”

While the danger of unstable furniture tipping over has always been a risk for small children, the emergence of the seemingly ubiquitous flat-screen TV has doubled the danger in the more than 60 percent of American households where the slim, lightweight televisions are present, based on the latest industry reports.

Kids are insatiably curious about the sleek TVs with life-like pictures and often attempt to touch the screens, which can have disastrous consequences if the televisions aren’t anchored in some way, said Jessica Saunders, injury prevention coordinator at Dayton Children’s.

“It’s a serious problem,” Saunders said. “The flat-screen TVs are so easy for kids to get to, and they’re so unbalanced and top-heavy that it’s really easy for little toddlers to pull them down.”

Last year, the hospital treated 21 children in its emergency room for injuries stemming from television tip-overs, according to Saunders, who estimated that last year’s total was up more than 25 percent from five years ago.

Nationwide, there has been a 31 percent increase in TV tip-over injuries over the past decade, based on estimates from the from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported by Safe Kids Worldwide.

Going back even further, the American Academy of Pediatrics found the number of kids sustaining injuries from falling TVs grew by 125 percent between 1990 and 2011. In addition, 60 percent of the 293 tip-over deaths reported over the past decade involved televisions or televisions and furniture falling together, according to the safety commission.

“Unlike adults, injuries are the No. 1 cause of death for kids,” said Mike Gittelman, co-director of the Comprehensive Children’s Injury Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. “When you’re talking about these TVs, or any piece of furniture, you’re talking about a very large object with a lot of force that will come down on a very small child.

“The greater the amount of force, the greater the amount of injuries,” Gittelman added. “We see everything from significant head injuries, to abdominal injuries, to even needing intensive care monitoring.”

Most incidents involve children under age 5 who are just learning to walk and explore their surroundings, Gittelman said. Seven out of 10 children injured by TV tip-overs are 5-years-old or younger, according to the safety commission.

“A child that is two or three years old that’s now more mobile can grab onto a cord or anything that’s attached to a television and pull it over,” he said. “So finding ways to make these TVs safe is crucial.”

Dr. David Roer, a pediatrician with a practice in Kettering, has also noted an increase in TV tip-over injures, which he attributed, at least in part, to the ever-increasing size of the screens on flat-panel TVs.

“We’re going from the old 20-inch TV to these big 55- and 60-inch televisions that are hard for kids to avoid if they fall,” Roer said. “We’re probably starting to see a few more injuries because of that. It’s something that parents need to be very conscious of.”

Almost half – 46 percent – of the TV tip-over injuries that occurred over the past 10 years resulted from TVs falling off a dresser or armoire, with another 31 percent falling from an entertainment center or TV stand, the safety commission reports. Only about a quarter of adults secure their TVs to a wall, which is an additional expense because of the cost of the wall mount.

“We tell everybody that they need to look at the stability of the TVs in their home, especially if you have a a flat-screen TV,” Dayton Children’s Saunders said. “If you have a flat-screen TV it should be secured to a wall with brackets or braces or wall straps, even if you don’t actually hang it from the wall.

“And if it’s on a piece of furniture or TV stand, you want to make sure it’s a low, stable piece of furniture that can’t tip,” she said.

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