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Rutgers study identifies dangers associated with glass tables

Stephanie Bonne, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said there are few safety regulations in place for glass tables.  – Photo by Needpix

Stephanie Bonne, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), recently co-authored a study on injuries resulting from glass tables that was published in The American Journal of Surgery in July. 

Bonne and her team conducted a single-center review with data from patients admitted to the NJMS University Hospital, a level one trauma center, from September 2001 to March 2016. 

“The hospital keeps a registry of all of the trauma patients that come in. It’s required, all trauma hospitals do,” Bonne said. “We could go back and search for ‘glass table’ in all of our old patients.”

The age of the patient, location of the injury, injury severity and injury description was recorded, Bonne said. The researchers also used the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to extract data from 2009 to 2015 from national servers.

“You don’t get the patient’s medical record (from the NEISS), so you don’t get as many details … but you get this much larger sample,” she said.

NEISS was used due to low cost, online access and ease of use. Injuries were classified by type, severity and involvement of “faulty” glass using predetermined criteria, Bonne said.

Bonne said the researchers wanted to see if the trend of glass table injuries seen in the NJMS University Hospital was also apparent in other trauma hospitals all over the country.

Injuries from “faulty” tables were reported as such if there was a broken glass that caused an injury, such as impalements and lacerations, according to the study. Tables were “not faulty” if the glass did not break or if injuries resulted from blunt impacts, such as where patients sustained non-penetrative injuries.

From the NJMS review, the study found that all injuries were due to the breakage of glass, according to the study. Significant blood loss was reported in 29 percent of patients and surgical intervention was required for 58 percent of patients.

The data from the NEISS included 3241 cases, and researchers found that approximately 56 percent of injuries were likely attributable to faulty tables, according to the study.

In these cases, commonly injured areas were the wrist, hand and finger. Among cases of faulty tables with injuries categorized as severe, common body parts injured were the lower trunk, upper trunk and wrist. 

The median age among those injured was 23.8 years with a bimodal distribution, with the modes being children under the age of seven and adults in their 20s, according to the data from the NEISS, according to the study.

Injuries that were not due to faulty glass, such as striking against a glass table or falling from a glass table, showed a different age distribution, with a median age of four and skew to children under the age of 10. These injuries most commonly involved the face, head and mouth. 

Based on the NEISS data from across the United States, researchers estimate glass table injuries, from both faulty glass and striking a table, amount to approximately 2.5 million annual injuries nationwide, according to the study. The data also suggests that the number of severe injuries due to glass tables is approximately 13,802 annually.

Although the danger surrounding glass tables had previously been categorized as a pediatric issue, the data shows that both children and adults have suffered significant injuries involving glass tables and are at risk for these preventable injuries, according to the study.

“The study speaks for itself,” Bonne said. “This is a dangerous problem. It doesn’t affect a lot of people, but it can be really severe.”

Bonne said glass tables are dangerous partly because there are very few regulations for either manufacturing or marketing for glass tables in the United States. 

“It is not something that’s heavily regulated,” Bonne said.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, unlike other countries, does not have any requirements for disclosing the quality of glass used in making glass tables, according to the study.

The authors of the study highlighted ways to ensure that glass is durable, including reducing nickel sulfide contamination to lower the risk of breakage, but said there are no clear guidelines regarding this within the American furniture manufacturing industry. 

Bonne said the regulations vary based on manufacturer and location and said the researchers involved with the paper hope this study will prompt new regulations regarding glass furniture.

“We’re just trying to say: ‘You need to be aware of this,’” Bonne said. “Pediatricians should be aware that this is happening to children.”

Pediatricians do a lot of preventative care, such as making sure kids are in the right car seats and that household chemicals, like bleach, are stored out of a child’s reach. Similarly, Bonne said they should be asking parents if they have glass tables in the house, and if so, advising them to find replacements.

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