Falling TVs Injure Children
July 22, 2013

For Kids Sitting Too Close, Falling TVs Injure More Than Their Eyes

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Many parents likely tell their children not to sit too close to the TV with the caveat that it's bad for their eyes, but the truth is there is no evidence it actually does any harm. In fact, evidence has shown that children can focus at close distance without eyestrain far better than adults, while children with nearsightedness (myopia) often opt to sit closer just to see the images more clearly.

However, a new study suggests a far greater danger in sitting too close to the tube, namely that of the TV falling onto a the child.

According to the findings of a new study published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, a child is rushed to a US emergency department every 45 minutes due to an injury related to a falling TV.

"These are occurring primarily to younger children. ... When (the TVs) start coming toward them, they don't realize the danger," said Dr. Gary Smith, the study's senior author and president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance (CIPA).

"The rate of pediatric injuries caused by falling TVs is increasing, which underscores the need for increased prevention efforts," the study's conclusion noted. "Prevention strategies include public education, provision of TV anchoring devices at the point of sale of TVs, TV anchoring device distribution programs, strengthening of standards for TV stability, and redesign of TVs to improve stability."

Using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, the researchers found just over half of all TV-related injuries for those under 18 years of age between 1990 and 2011 were due to the equipment falling on the patient. The number of falling TV injuries was 5,455 in 1990 alone but had doubled to 12,000 per year in 2011.

While only 2.6 percent of those injured required hospitalization, a total of 380,885 pediatric patients were treated in the emergency room from 1990 to 2011, for an average of more than 17,000 per year. The most common category of injury occurred from the patient having been struck by the TV at 38 percent, but those types of injuries dropped by 68 percent over the study's 22-year period.

The injuries are particularly common since TV sets can be found in 99 percent of all US homes, and 55 percent of US households have three or more of the devices. The number of US households with multiple TVs has more than doubled since 1990, but this isn't the primary reason for the increase in injuries. Often times it is the placement in the home of older TV sets, which the study noted could be relegated to less than ideal locations including dressers or unsuitable furniture.

"What we're finding is when those second and third TVs are being brought into these homes, the (older and bulkier units) are being moved and put in other parts of the home that are unsafe," Smith, who is also director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told Reuters.

It is now recommended TVs be strapped down or anchored to the wall.

The other significant factor in the increase of injuries is more people now have flat screen TVs, which are far likelier to tip over than their boxier predecessors because of how the weight is distributed.

"Lighter weights coupled with a less bulky design may make flat panels more easily tipped than CRTs (cathode ray tube) and may be contributing to the observed increase in the rate of injuries associated with falling TVs," the researchers added.

The study authors have called on Northbrook-based Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which sets the voluntary standards for TV sets, to provide an anti-tip or anchoring standard similar to that used for furniture.