The 10 most dangerous things inside every home may surprise you

The 10 most dangerous things inside every home may surprise you

With emergency room visits for home injuries topping 10 million a year, ConsumerAffairs analyzed data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to break down the 10 most dangerous things in the average American home.

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child reaching for stove

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A child only 2 years old fractured her clavicle after a fall down the steps. A 62-year-old wheelchair user fell while transferring to the toilet, breaking his femur. A 19-year-old started seizing during a hot bath, resulting in second-degree burns all over her body. And a man, 58, experienced a heart attack in his bathroom, hitting the ground so hard on his fall that his intestines bled out. He died on the bathroom floor.

The risk of serious injury and death due to unexpected, even shocking, interactions with the fundamental items inside every American home is higher than you might think. The human body is made of soft tissue wrapped around a stable skeleton, and it's vulnerable to every home's many hard features, corners, and sharp edges. Slippery surfaces, like those on toilets and bathtubs, as well as ordinary pieces of furniture, like beds and couches, can lead to serious falls, causing lacerations, broken bones, and even ruptured internal organs. And the walls and floors that make up the house can be especially hazardous when people collide with them.

Interestingly, the number of home injuries resulting in hospital visits rose dramatically across nearly all categories in the most recent year data is available, reaching a decade-high of over 10 million estimated injuries in 2022, according to a ConsumerAffairs analysis. Roughly 1 million of the injuries in 2022 were so severe that the doctors admitted the victims to the hospital or transferred them for more serious medical care. An estimated 7,255 people died.

Patty Davis, press secretary for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said the recent rise in injury data is likely connected to the coronavirus pandemic. "Although we can't make a statement about every single product in particular, in general, it is restored hospital capacity and people starting to return to emergency rooms post-COVID," she said.

The number of remote workers tripled in the U.S. between 2019 and 2021; demand for nursing homes went down by 2021, with continuing steady demand for "aging in place" at home instead; and employment of mothers had not returned to pre-COVID levels as of January 2023. It's easy to imagine the number of injuries in the home reflecting the amount of time people are still spending at home, including children and older adults at higher risk of injuries.

Dr. C. Patrick Shahan, a trauma surgeon and professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says the risks of injury in the home can be reduced through preventive steps. "Adults of any age should be mindful of having functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, clutter-free walking paths and stairways, and should consider turning a critical eye to their living spaces when visitors at either extreme of age, or those with impaired mobility, are going to be there.

"I have seen the term 'age-proofing' of a home used, which I like the most because it encompasses safety at all ages," Shahan said. "The safety of a living space is important at all ages, but especially at the extremes when people are at higher risk than most adults."

With emergency room visits for home injuries topping 10 million a year, ConsumerAffairs analyzed data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System to break down the 10 most dangerous things in the average American home.

Key insights

  • Watch where you walk: Floors were more likely to result in hospital visits than any other home product or feature.
  • Make sure your kids sleep tight: Beds and bed frames were involved in more than 80,000 injuries among children under 2.

Bathroom risks rise with age: The average age of those experiencing toilet-related injuries is 66, the highest average age among various categories.

Here are the most injurious surfaces and objects in your home, as reported by U.S. hospitals

table showing features of home and related injuries

ConsumerAffairs

The full methodology of this list can be found below.

1. Floors: 2.135 million hospital visits

Floor-related injuries surpassed 2 million in 2022 for the first time in a decade. That was a dramatic increase of 45% from the year prior.

Nearly 2,000 deaths resulted from floor-related injuries in the home in 2022. That's more than double the deaths caused by anything else in the home. A sampling of injury reports may partly explain why: Many are in their 70s or older, including some who were not found for hours after their falls. For those with preexisting conditions or at high risk, a fall can also reveal or trigger a problem that becomes fatal.

2. Stairs or steps: 1.027 million hospital visits

A 60-year-old woman wound up at the emergency room after climbing up her stairs, falling backward, and hitting her head on a door. A 76-year-old man tripped on steps while using a walker, falling and fracturing his hip. And a 29-year-old twisted his ankle when he slipped on the stairs.

These recent reports submitted by hospitals describe serious injuries from walking both up and down stairs, which is all the more reason to be mindful of where you step. Even with regulations, stairs are a serious danger. More than 73,000 stair-related injuries at home in 2022 were severe enough for the patient to be admitted to the hospital.

3. Beds or bed frames: 912,000 hospital visits

Falling onto a soft surface like a mattress can reduce the injury compared with falling from the same height onto a hard surface like a tabletop. But it can be much worse if you fall and strike the corner of a bed frame. "It can cause broken bones of the face, the skull, and sometimes even the neck, and then it can cause injury to the brain even if there is no external injury," Shahan, the trauma surgeon, said.

Beds and bed frames aren't just a risk for adults. They are linked to more than 80,000 injuries among children under 2 years old annually, according to hospital data, making them a more dangerous object for young kids than almost anything else in the home. A sampling of reports shows a number of children under 2, including one who was brought in twice in a span of a week for falling off their bed.

4. Bathtubs or showers: 431,000 hospital visits

A particularly slippery floor like you may find in the bathroom can exacerbate the risk of falling. Bathrooms can also be quite small, which may mean less room to maneuver for people who use walkers or canes. Modifying your shower with grab bars or walk-in features can help prevent a dangerous situation.

But falling isn't the only concern in a bathtub or shower: Patients showing up to emergency rooms also describe injuries resulting from excessive heat. One 83-year-old man in the U.S. hospital described stepping into the bathtub when the water was hot, burning his right lower leg. In another incident, a 75-year-old female fainted in the shower, hit her head, and dislocated her hip.

5. Tables: 327,000 hospital visits

More than 25,000 children under 2 years old ended up at the emergency room for a table-related injury in 2022. In one hospital report, a 16-month-old boy ran into the leg of a table at his house and wound up with a serious bruise on his forehead.

Tables are typically made of hard surfaces like wood, metal, glass, and stone, all of which can do a number on the human body. And tables pose an additional risk, which is that they're supported by legs or other structures that are close to your toes. That adds tripping or stubbing toes as possible injuries.

6. Chairs: 319,000 hospital visits

Chairs pose risks to the young and the old. Hospitals report instances of children only a few years old falling when standing up on chairs, unable to keep their balance, as well as older people struggling to get up and out of chairs safely, resulting in lacerations.

One 17-month-old girl fell 5 feet while standing on a chair to reach a light switch. That's about twice the height of a toddler that age.

7. Interior ceilings and walls: 293,000 hospital visits

Ceilings and walls are most commonly linked to internal organ injuries. More than 20,000 of these injuries were serious enough for the patient to be admitted to the hospital.

It's important to note that the "ceilings and walls" category doesn't include doors or door frames, or low-hanging add-ons like ceiling fans or lights. Even so, banging your head on a low-hanging ceiling or colliding with a wall can do significant damage.

Several sample reports are about men who punched a wall, causing broken bones and other injuries — all the more reason to curb the behavior.

8. Sofas, couches, davenports, divans, or studio couches: 211,000 hospital visits

Couch injuries skew young. The average age of someone showing up to a hospital after a couch-related incident at home is 32, the lowest of anything in the top 10.

Infants and toddlers can easily roll off couches. For healthy adults, a short fall may not be a problem, but a baby could fall their entire body length off a couch onto a much softer skeleton that has many more bones than adults' bodies do.

9. Rugs or carpets: 206,000 hospital visits

Carpet presents less slip-and-fall risk than smooth floors, but it poses other risks. Shahan says flooring transitions, carpet and rug edges, and uneven surfaces all contribute to accidents. Auditing these and making changes is a great way to prepare for a visit from an older family member or disabled friend.

"Are there surfaces that people can slip or get tripped up on, a particularly slippery floor, an edge of carpet that tends to roll up?" Shahan asked. "This is compounded for older adults by the increased likelihood of major injury from a simple fall as we age. The inescapable reality is that as we age our balance and mobility decrease."

10. Toilets: 204,000 hospital visits

Toilets are a serious risk for older people. The average age of toilet-related injuries resulting in a hospital visit is 66, the highest average age in the whole dataset.

One wheelchair user who fell off a toilet was found to have atrial fibrillation, a condition that can cause dizziness and fainting.

"As we age there are a lot of changes to our body. Our posture changes. Our core and lower leg strength changes," Shahan explained. That makes it harder to do a controlled movement to lower to the toilet and get back up, especially with low toilets in older homes.

Methodology

ConsumerAffairs analyzed data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which collects detailed reports from a nationally representative sample of about 100 U.S. hospitals. These reports include home features, like walls and floors, but exclude injuries connected to guns, automobiles, and pharmaceuticals, which fall outside of CPSC's jurisdiction.

The data includes all injuries where a product is involved, even if the product is not the primary cause of the injury. For example, someone twisting an ankle while playing tennis, causing them to drop their racket and fall over, may appear in the data for a tennis racket injury.

ConsumerAffairs downloaded bulk NEISS data from 2013 to 2022, filtering for injuries occurring at home and examining the data together based on product, diagnosis, body parts affected, age and outcome (e.g., discharge, hospitalization). Relying on CPSC's guidelines, ConsumerAffairs weighted each report to come up with national estimates for product-related injuries. The ranking was derived from 2022 data, but older years of data were used to examine trends over time.

The home features and fixtures making the top 10 list are specific categories that do not encompass everything. The stairs category excludes pull-down and folding stairs. Baths and showers include fixtures and accessories, but exclude enclosures, faucets, spigots, and towel racks. Tables exclude baby changing tables and billiard and pool tables, as well as television tables and stands.

This story was produced by ConsumerAffairs and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.






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