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Safer Tubs Needed for Fewer Bath Injuries

Children’s Bathtub Slips and Falls Lead Researchers to Call for Higher Product Safety Standards
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 14, 2009 -- Many children are injured each year in bath time slips and falls -- accidents that could be avoided with higher product safety standards for bathtubs and showers, researchers say.

For a study published in Pediatrics, researchers examined bath time injury records from an 18-year period and concluded that safer bathtubs and showers could significantly reduce such incidents.

Researchers looked at nationally representative data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1990 through 2007. They examined data for children 18 years old and younger.

During this time, there were an estimated 791,200 bathtub and shower injuries among children 18 and younger who were treated in emergency rooms. Children aged 4 and under accounted for the majority of injuries. The researchers write that the "high injury rate among young children is consistent with their poor coordination, lack of strength, immature judgment, and poor ability to anticipate danger." The most common type of injury was a laceration (60%), and the most common cause was a slip, trip, or fall (81%). The most often injured body part was the face (48%), followed by the head/neck (15%). An estimated 2.8% of patients were admitted, transferred to another hospital, or held for observation. The researchers note that the study probably underestimates the numbers of bathtub and shower-related injuries because the data doesn't take into account injuries treated outside of emergency departments.

In their conclusion, researchers called for higher product safety standards, especially increased friction on bathtub and shower floors. They also said shatterproof shower doors and elimination of sharp edges in bathing environments should be evaluated.

“Bathtub and shower-related injuries, especially those attributable to slips, trips, and falls, represent a common source of injuries for children, particularly children at or under 4 years of age,” the authors write. “The consistently high rates of these injuries over the 18-year study period underscore the need for additional preventive actions.”

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