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Paper Shredders May Hurt Kids' Hands

If Caught in Shredder, Little Hands Could Be Seriously Damaged
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 6, 2006 --- Got a paper shredder at home? Keep toddlers and young children away from it, even if you're supervising them, doctors warn in Pediatrics.

"Toddlers are at risk of finger injury and amputation" from paper shredders, write Ramona Warren, MD, MPH, and George Foltin, MD.

Paper shredders should be kept unplugged and out of children's reach, the doctors write. They also urge parents not to let young children use or be near shredders at any time.

Shredders have become more common in homes. The devices should carry a warning about injury risk, be designed to avoid hand injuries, and come with blades that can be easily separated in an emergency, write Warren and Foltin.

They work in the pediatrics and emergency medicine departments of New York University's medical school and Bellevue Hospital Center.

Hands Caught in Blades

The doctors describe treating a 2-year-old girl whose hand had gotten stuck in a working shredder.

The girl's parents were using their home shredder when their daughter walked by and put her hand on top of the shredder. "Her fingers were drawn into the shredder opening along with the papers, far enough to allow her fingers to contact the cutting mechanism," the doctors write.

The girl's father unplugged the shredder. With much effort, he pried his daughter's hand out of the blades. The parents wrapped their daughter's hand in a towel and headed for the emergency room.

The girl had surgery but likely has permanent finger damage, especially in her third finger, write Warren and Foltin.

Supervision Not Enough

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned in May 2004 that paper shredders could injure young children, the doctors note.

Warren and Foltin checked CPSC records and found 31 reports of injuries linked to home paper shredders from 2000-2003. Nearly three-quarters of those cases involved children younger than 12. Most of those kids were less than 3 years old.

"The CPSC investigation of the circumstances surrounding the injuries found that, surprisingly, injuries among children occurred frequently while the children were under adult supervision," the doctors write.

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