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Environmental Safety

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning FACT SHEET

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless – and can be produced by household appliances fueled with gas, oil, kerosene or wood.

Each year, more than 1,700 children age 5 and under are poisoned by carbon monoxide.

Effects of carbon monoxide often mimic the flu: headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea.

Carbon monoxide detectors offer the best protection when placed in bedrooms and on the ceiling at least 15 feet from fuel-burning appliances.

In 1991 there were 35 reported deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning for children ages 14 and under.

In 1993, there were 1,764 carbon monoxide poisoning cases reported for children ages 5 and under.

The carbon monoxide poisoning death rate among children ages 14 and under has basically remained unchanged since 1979, while death rates in other age groups have dropped by approximately half.

Children are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning because they have higher metabolic rates than adults. Children use more oxygen faster than adults, therefore they breathe in more deadly doses of carbon monoxide.

Prevention

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Have a professional install the home heating system and inspect it in the beginning of each winter season.
  • Never operate gas-powered engines in confined spaces.
  • Never use charcoal grills inside the home, outside an open window, or in an attached garage, even if the door is open.
  • Have your household fuel-burning appliances checked.

Unintentional Firearm Injuries & Deaths

FACT SHEET

Unintentional shootings account for more than 20% of all firearm-related fatalities among children ages 14 and under and have become more common as the availability of firearms has increased. Americans possess more than 223 million firearms, including 77 million handguns. Nearly half of all homes in the U.S. have some type of firearm and one in four homes have a handgun.

Exposure to guns and access to a loaded firearm increases the risk of unintentional firearm-related death and injury to children. Unrealistic perceptions of children’s capabilities and behavioral tendencies with regard to guns are common, including misunderstanding a child’s ability to gain access to and fire a gun; distinguish between real and toy guns; make good judgments about handling a gun and consistently follow rules about gun safety.National Facts

Deaths and Injuries

  • In 1995, more than 180 children ages 14 and under died from unintentional firearm-related injuries. Children ages 10 to 14 accounted for more than 70% of these deaths.
  • Each year, an estimated 1,500 children ages 14 and under are treated in hospital emergency rooms for unintentional firearm-related injuries. Approximately 38% of these injuries are severe enough to require hospitalization.
  • Every day, 15 children aged 19 and under are killed with guns.
  • On a daily basis, 100,000 students carry guns to school, 160,000 miss class due to fear of physical harm, and 40 are injured or killed by firearms.
  • A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than to be used in self-defense.
  • The unintentional firearm injury death rate among children ages 14 and under in the U.S. is nine times higher than in 25 other industrialized countries combined.
  • In 1996, nearly 15,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in emergency rooms for non-powder gun-related injuries.

When and Where?

  • Nearly all childhood unintentional shooting deaths occur in our around the home. 50% occur in the home of the victim and nearly 40% occur in the home of a friend or relative.
  • Most childhood unintentional shooting deaths involve guns that have been kept loaded and accessible to children. It is estimated that 3.3 million children in the U.S. live in households with firearms that are always or sometimes kept loaded and unlocked.
  • One-third to one-half of all firearm owners keep firearms loaded and ready for use at least some of the time. Nearly 15% of firearm owners with children in their home currently keep firearms both loaded and unlocked.
  • Most unintentional firearm-related deaths among children occur when children play with loaded guns.
  • Unintentional shootings among children most often occur when children are supervised and out of school, and increase during the summer months (June to August) and the holiday season (November to December).
  • More than 40% of unintentional shootings occur in the afternoon hours between noon and 5 p.m.
  • More than 70% of unintentional firearm shootings involve handguns. When long guns (shotguns and rifles) are responsible for unintentional shootings, they most often occur in non-urban areas.
  • Rural areas have higher rates of firearm ownership and unintentional firearm-related injuries than urban and suburban areas. Shootings in rural areas are more likely to occur outdoors and with a shotgun or rifle, as opposed to indoors and with a handgun in urban areas.

Who Is At Risk?

  • Firearm ownership in the home is associated with an increased risk of unintentional firearm fatalities among children.
  • Male children are far more likely to die from unintentional firearm-related injuries than females. Of those children ages 14 and under who are killed from an unintentional shooting, nearly 90% are male.
  • African-American children, especially males ages 10 to 14, have higher death rates from unintentional shootings than Caucasian children.
  • Children living in the South are three times more likely to die from unintentional firearm-related injuries than those living in the Northeast.
  • Children living in rural areas have higher death rates from unintentional firearm-related injury.
  • Nearly two-thirds of parents with school-age children who keep a gun in the home believe that the firearm is safe from their children. However, one study found that when a gun was in the home, 75-80% of first aid second graders knew where the gun was kept.
  • Generally, before age 8, few children can reliably distinguish between real and toy guns or fully understand the consequences of their actions.
  • Children as young as age 3 are strong enough to pull the trigger of many of the handguns available in the U.S.

Connecticut Facts
Unintentional gun injury among CT persons <20 years of age

Deaths (1988-95): 20 deaths (average 2 deaths/year)
of the 20 deaths:

  • 1 (5%) occurred among toddlers 1 – 4 years of age
  • 1 (5%) among 5 – 9 year olds
  • 3 (15%) among 10 – 14 year olds
  • 15 (75%) among 15-19 year olds.

Non-fatal hospitalized injury (1990-94)
334 hospital admissions (average 15 admissions/yr)

Of the 334 hospital admissions:

  • 1 (0.3%) occurred among toddlers 1 – 4 years of age
  • 12 (3.6%) among 5 – 9 year olds
  • 50 (15.0%) among 10 – 14 year olds
  • 271 (81.1%) among 15 – 19 year olds.

For every unintentional gun death there are 25 children admitted to a hospital for a non-fatal injury.Prevention

  • Two safety devices, trigger locks and load indicators, could prevent more than 30% of all unintentional firearm fatalities.
  • Every unintentional shooting in which a child age 5 and under shot and killed themselves or others could have been prevented by a childproof gun safety device.

Firearm Laws and Regulations

  • Firearms are unregulated consumer products. There is no government agency that regulates the design of handguns or safety. In addition, most gun laws in the U.S. target gun users, as opposed to firearm manufacturers.
  • Currently, 15 states have enacted Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, which may hold adults criminally liable for failure to either store loaded firearms in a place inaccessible to children or use a safety device to lock the gun.
  • In the first year following the passage of Florida’s Child Access Prevention Law, unintentional firearm fatalities among children ages 14 and under declined by more than 50%.
  • Several local jurisdictions, including Montgomery County, MD and Chicago, have passed ordinances requiring the provision of a gunlock with the purchase of every handgun.
  • A national opinion survey found that 75% of Americans endorse government regulation of the safety design of guns and 86% support laws requiring all new handguns to be child resistant.

Health Care Costs and Savings

  • The total annual cost of unintentional firearm-related deaths and injuries among children ages 14 and under is more than $3.7 billion. Children ages 5 to 14 account for more than $3.5 billion, or nearly 95% of these costs.
  • Among children ages 14 and under, unintentional firearm injuries account for nearly half of the total cost of all firearm injuries, which include homicide, suicide and unintentional firearm injuries.
  • Hospital treatment for a firearm-related injury averages between $7,000 and $15,000 per case.

Prevention Tips

  • Gun owners should always store firearms unloaded and locked up, with ammunition locked in a separate location, out of reach of children.
  • Gun owners should use trigger locks, load indicators and other safety devices on all firearms.
  • All parents should teach children never to touch a gun and to tell an adult if they find a gun.

Sports Safety

Before the game: Before beginning a sport, all children should receive a general health exam and an orthopedic exam. Find out all you can about the person who is responsible for your child’s care while playing. Does the coach possess a state- or nationally approved certificate to coach this sport? Is she certified in CPR, and is a first aid kit available? Is a certified athletic trainer available to provide instruction and rehabilitation? Children should be physically and psychologically conditioned for activities, instructed in basic skills, and matched with other kids of similar skill level, weight and maturity. Check athletic grounds for hazards (rocks, holes, water, etc.). Also consider current and potential weather conditions (e.g. lightning). Make sure your children always wear appropriate safety gear and equipment that fits properly. Protective gear is sport-specific and may include mouth guards, shin pads, helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, safety goggles, etc. Ensure that children warm up and stretch before playing.
During the game: Make sure your children are supervised by an adult at all times. All safety rules should be strictly enforced. Dehydration in young athletes is a serious concern. Make sure your kids drink adequate liquids prior to, during and following athletic activities. Know the symptoms of dehydration: thirst, weakness, headaches, dark-colored urine or a slight decrease in body weight. Kids should receive adequate rest breaks during practice and games. They should not be expected to play through an injury. Parents and coaches should be role models by practicing good sportsmanship and playing by the rules. Prepare for an emergency by providing your child’s coach with important information: parents’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and any medical conditions or allergies affecting the athlete.

Playground Safety

With the new school year just around the corner, playgrounds around Connecticut are sure to be busy with children salvaging their final days of summer vacation. But while out enjoying the last days of summer, Connecticut SAFE KIDS wants parents to know that although built for fun, playgrounds can be dangerous.

“Parents underestimate the numerous hazards children are exposed to on playgrounds.” says Eileen Henzy, MPH, director of Connecticut SAFE KIDS. “Supervision is a good thing, but often it isn’t enough. Carefree scrambling on monkey bars, sliding boards and swings sometimes ends with a trip to the emergency room.”

Henzy added that hospital emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children a year for playground injuries, with children ages 5 to 14 accounting for more than 70 percent of these injuries. About 15 to 20 children die annually from such injuries. Recent studies have shown that falls account for 70 percent of the injuries, while lack of parental supervision is responsible for more than 40 percent.

“It’s a matter of physics.” Henzy said. “The higher the fall and harder the surface, the worse the injury.”

To guard against falls, make sure your child’s playground has guardrails on all elevated equipment, and a canopy at the top of sliding boards that guide children into the proper sitting position. And watch those swing sets. Each set should have only two swings. When there are three, the two end swings can smash into the center swing. Clothing is another overlooked factor.

“There should be no drawstrings on sweatshirts and the like” Henzy said. “Just pull the drawstrings out, because they can get caught on equipment and strangle a child.”

SAFE KIDS offers additional advice to ensure that every playground trip is safe and fun.

Playground surface: It should contain at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, shredded tires (not radials, which contain metal) or pea gravel. The worst surfaces: concrete, asphalt, and hard-packed dirt.

Fall zones: Shock-absorbing material (often the surfaces described above, but sometimes deeper) should extend at least six feet in all directions from stationary equipment, in front of and behind swings, and a distance equal to twice the maximum height at which a child can climb or dangle.

Catch points: There should be no exposed bolts, open “S” hooks, or protrusions.

Openings: Spaces in guardrails, between platforms and between ladder rungs should be less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.

Parts: Watch for sharp points or edges.

Tripping hazards: There should be no elevated tree roots, stumps, rocks or exposed concrete.

Guardrails: Platforms, ramps and connecting bridges should have guardrails.

Maintenance: Learn who is responsible for maintaining the playground.

Supervision: Your view of kids at play should not be obstructed.

Age appropriateness: Limit kids to areas specifically designed for their age level.

Peeling paint: It may contain lead.

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