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Hospital Emergency Room Treatment for Some Product-Related Injuries Rose During the Pandemic, Even as Overall ER Visits Dropped

Release Date: March 04, 2021

Washington, D.C. –  The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way U.S. consumers live, work and go to school.  A new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released during National Consumer Protection week now shows an impact on hospital emergency room (ER)-treated injuries from consumer products, as well.  The Effect of the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic on Preliminary NEISS Estimates,” suggests that although consumers may have avoided the ER for some product-related injuries, they did go at nearly the same rate as the previous year for more severe injuries.  The types of products causing injury displayed some marked increases and decreases, as well, highlighting new patterns of risk that may have arisen during the pandemic.

Among the key findings of the report, which examined hospital emergency room data from March through September 2020:

  • ER treatment* for product-related injuries overall decreased by 24%, but for severe product-related injuries, by only 1%.
  • The largest increases in ER-treated injuries across all age ranges occurred with fireworks and flares (56%), skateboards, scooters, and hoverboards (39%), and severe injuries for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), mopeds and minibikes (39%).
  • ER-treated injuries related to button batteries rose by 93% among young children (ages 5-9).
  • Sports-related injuries dropped significantly, including those that normally occur at schools (as much as 81%).
  • ER treatment rose sharply for injuries related to cleaning agents (84%) and soaps and detergents (60%).
  • Although bicycles had a slight increase (1%) in overall injuries, the increase jumped to 21% for users age 40 and above, and 39% for adults older than 70.

Read other highlights from the report here.

“These data begin to tell a story of how consumers were injured by products during the pandemic,” notes Acting Chairman Robert Adler.  “But the ending of the story has yet to be written.  With more data and more resources, CPSC can help make sure that consumers are safer, whether they are quarantining at home, or back at work and school.”

Among the smallest of the federal health and safety regulatory agencies, CPSC has broad jurisdiction over thousands of types of consumer products.  In recent months, Acting Chairman Adler has repeatedly pressed for additional resources for the agency to tackle the nation’s product safety concerns.

Today’s report is the first glimpse into injury patterns from the first seven months of the pandemic.  It is an overview of changes observed in reports from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), and it compares preliminary March 2020 through September 2020 estimates to the March 2019 through September 2019 period.  About one in fifty hospitals nationally participate in NEISS as part of a scientifically selected sample of hospitals nationwide. 

Throughout the pandemic, CPSC has provided consumers with safety tips at the agency’s COVID-19 Safety Education Center.  Data from the new report highlight areas of special concern for consumers:

  • Poisons: Keep cleaning products in their original bottles.  Lock them up and away from younger children.
  • Micromobility Devices: Gear up with a helmet before riding a scooter, skateboard or hoverboard, and stay out of the street.
  • Fireworks: Never allow young children to play with, or ignite, fireworks, including sparklers.
  • Batteries: Keep products with small batteries, including TV remotes, away from kids, and make sure that the battery compartments on children’s toys are secured properly.
  • Bicycles: Wear a helmet.  When buying a helmet look for the label that reads “Complies with U.S. CPSC Safety Standards for Bicycle Helmets.

*Note: Emergency room-(ER) treated injuries include patients who are treated and released, as well as more severe injuries that require subsequent hospitalization or other more advanced treatment. 

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

Federal law prohibits any person from selling products subject to a Commission ordered recall or a voluntary recall undertaken in consultation with the CPSC.

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