Paper Shredder Danger

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says shredders - $350 million worth were sold [in 2004] and many wound up in homes - pose a growing threat of injury to children, particularly toddlers.

Paper shredders are in millions of American homes today. And with the growing threat of identity theft, shredder sales are soaring - up 35 percent over the past five years. They don't seem all that dangerous, but if there is a toddler in the house a paper shredder can be a real hazard.

Between January 2000 and September 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission received 50 reports of finger injuries - including lacerations and amputations - from home paper shredders. The majority of those injured were children under the age of 5.

"The vast majority of the units out there are dangerous to children," says Dr. George Foltin, associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at New York University School of Medicine.

In a study published this year in Pediatrics magazine, Foltin reported that half the accidents happened "when the parent was with the child showing them how to use the paper shredder." The child is holding the paper and their fingers get pulled into the shredder. "They either don’t recognize to let go or it happens so quickly that they don’t have time to let go," Foltin explains.

In Dallas, 5-year-old Jared Lawson was feeding paper into the shredder as his mother looked on. Lora Lawson says Jared had been taught how to use it. On this day, in March 2004, the machine hesitated and then started up again. Jared’s hand was pulled along with the paper into the blades.

"The third and fourth fingers on his left hand were shredded," she recalls. "They came out looking like ground meat."

Lawson stopped the shredder, but was unable to get her son’s fingers out. He was airlifted to the hospital with the top of the machine still attached to his hand. The boy lost part of one finger.

'Enticing' machines

"Kids and shredders don't mix," says Patty Davis of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. When they do, the results can be tragic. "A shredder is not a toy and not something that a child should ever operate."

The CPSC says a child should never be allowed to use a shredder or be in the room when you are using it. "Kids tend to mimic adults," Davis says, "so they will try to do this."

Sara Waters agrees. "It’s just very enticing to little kids," she says. "They hear the noise, and you can tell them no, but they’re curious." Lora Lawson advises other parents to realize the danger. "Kids should not even touch them," she warns.

To play it safe, keep the shredder unplugged or in a place where a child cannot get to it. This is also important if you have pets. At least five cases have been documented in which a dog was licking an automatic-feed shredder and got its tongue sucked into the machine.

Additional information:

We understand the unique legal and practical problems associated with paper shredder accidents and have experience in representing the injured. Our Law Firm represents injured children across the country and also work to provide resources to help educate the public, in hopes of increasing your and your family's safety. Contact us today for further information. We offer free initial consultations and our Law Firm works on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is no fee unless we successfully resolve your case.

For immediate assistance, call us toll-free at 1.800.862.1260

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