By Amir Kimia, MD
Earlier this year, Children’s Hospital Boston’s Division of Emergency Medicine published a study in Pediatric Emergency Care that examined glass-table injuries to children. We conducted a review in collaboration with Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, which found that glass-table injuries to children were alarmingly higher than previously thought, and that there is a consensus among ED physicians that many of these injuries would have been avoided if a safer type of glass was used.
Now, just six months later, a consortium of industry leaders published new standards last week that recommend the use of tempered glass when producing glass tables. Used for car windshields and glass doors, tempered glass is four to five times strong than standard glass and breaks into small fragments with dull edges. These are far less harmful than the large, sharp shards that come from standard glass-tables and can cause severe lacerations and morbid injury. The consortium’s recommendations are a monumental step forward in the campaign to eradicate serious glass-table injuries to children and adults.
The process that helped lead to these recommendations started nearly three years ago when we started looking at bad glass-table related injuries and ED visits over the past 12 years. We identified 174 patients who came in with injuries caused by glass tables (although there may have been more that were not specified). Three of our ED physicians reviewed these patient charts, and it was eventually concluded that over half of the injuries could have been prevented or mitigated with safer glass. Furthermore, safer glass would have drastically reduced indirect morbidity associated with glass injury–like radiation exposure during imaging, and sedation risk for wound exploration—often required in these patients.
To have industry standards be changed so soon after we published the study is a blessing and testament to the importance of research. But what really makes these changes extra special is that they could not have happened without the influence and prescience of our colleague, the late Dr. Michael Shannon. After Michael was solicited to do a media interview on glass-table injuries in 2006, he asked me to find out if there have been any cases like these that he could describe. I ended up finding that there had actually a lot of ED admissions resulting from glass-table injuries, which made him want to look into this topic more seriously. Michael always inspired me and my colleagues, and it is wonderful to know that his legacy continues to have an impact on children’s health.
It is my hope that the next glass-table injury I see in the ED will be my last.