CPSC Releases "Special Report" On Older Consumer Injuries

February 14, 2005
Release Number: 05-107

Injuries Rise Dramatically For 75 and Older Age Group

In 2002, more than 1.45 million Americans 65 years and older went to hospital emergency rooms with consumer product-related injuries. According to a new study titled "Special Report: Emergency Room Injuries Adults 65 and Older," consumers in that age group are increasingly at risk for product-related injuries in or around the home, especially falls. The report is being announced today to coincide with the kickoff of a major education campaign by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the National Safety Council (NSC).

The special report finds those 75 years and older especially vulnerable. From 1991 to 2002, the number of people 75 and older treated in a U.S. hospital emergency room for a product-related injury jumped 73 percent. During the same time frame, their population grew just 27 percent. Those 75 years and older are twice as likely as adults 65 to 74 to have emergency room-treated injuries from consumer products.

"These are preventable injuries," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "Older Americans are living longer and are more active than ever. We want them to enjoy themselves free from debilitating injury."

CPSC estimates product-related injuries and deaths involving those 65 and older cost the U.S. over $100 billion every year.

"Falls and injuries among the elderly are issues of extreme importance to the National Safety Council," said Alan C. McMillan, NSC President and CEO. "According to our 2003 data, more than 15,000 Americans 65 and older died as a result of unintentional injuries in the home. We need to take steps now in order to address this urgent national issue."

Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury at home among Americans 65 and older. Injuries include falling and tripping on stairs, in bathtubs, off ladders and step stools, over garden hoses, dog leashes, and household appliance cords.

Among more active older consumers, the report cites sports-related deaths and injuries. CPSC has reports of 100 drowning deaths in one year among those 65 and older, a disproportionate share.

Fires are also a hazard. Cooking fires and clothing ignition while cooking are a major hazard for older people.

Those 75 and older are one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population, and older consumers are also increasingly involved in exercise and sports.

Below are CPSC's safety tips to help reduce deaths and injuries to older consumers from falls. CPSC has also prepared safety tips in checklist (Spanish version) and poster (Spanish version) formats. The advice is simple, straightforward and can save a life:

  • Install grab bars and slip-resistant surfaces in bathrooms.
  • Only use stable step stools with a top handrail. Don't climb alone. Have someone nearby to help you.
  • Be sure your telephones and emergency numbers are easily accessible – so you can get help if you fall.
  • Always grip the handrails on stairs. Keep stairs well lighted.
  • Keep floors clear and slip resistant.

In addition to the injury report, CPSC is launching a major education campaign to warn older Americans of their risks. Through its Neighborhood Safety Network, CPSC is coordinating with the National Safety Council to reach older Americans through NSC chapters, senior centers and state agencies, urging consumers to take extra precautions. CPSC and NSC signed an updated Memorandum of Understanding to work together to reduce product-related injuries among older consumers and cooperate on other important issues.

Throughout the year, CPSC staff will work with state organizations that promote safety for older consumers and inform them about hazards that pose a risk of injury. Staff will host 30 seminars nationwide, distribute CPSC safety publications, and encourage older consumers to visit CPSC's Web site at www.cpsc.gov to learn about hazards in and around the home.