Glass Top Tables Unseen Threat To Child Safety

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Glass top tables and child safety

Glass top tables have escaped scrutiny by safety experts as a threat to child safety. The findings of a study, published in the March issue of Pediatric Emergency Care, are a reminder to parents that childhood injuries from glass top tables and furniture with glass sides are all too common among children, and can be fatal.

The reviewers looked at emergency room records from 174 glass table injuries treated at Children's emergency department. The injuries occurred between 1995 and 2007. The safety threat to children from glass top tables is a collaborative effort between Consumer’s Union, the non-profit organization that publishes Consumer Reports.

Injuries to children, who play, fall into, knock over, or sit on glass top tables were found most often among boys, around three and a half years old. The resultant injuries to the face, legs, arms, hands and feet of children from glass top tables would be entirely preventable if safety glass was used, say the authors. However, no such standards exist, unlike glass doors and windshields that are made from sturdy, tempered glass.

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Amir Kimia, MD, of the Division of Emergency Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston says, “Huge shards of glass are basically like knives. If they sever an artery, they can cause uncontrolled bleeding, and the injury can be fatal." When tempered glass breaks, injury is unlikely to occur because of the small fragments. Glass top tables pose a serious threat to children inside the home and from patio furniture.

The remedy is simple, but seems to have been overlooked. Donald Mays, Senior Director of Product Safety and Technical Policy for Consumers Union says, "The use of tempered glass can significantly reduce the more than 20,000 serious injuries incurred each year from the use of common annealed glass in furniture."

Dr. Kimia says there is no way to tell if tables are made from tempered glass just by looking. The solution to reducing childhood injuries from glass top tables is to make tempered glass mandatory in the production of glass furniture to reduce the possibility of fatal injuries and disfiguration in children.

The study from Children’s Hospital showed that forty percent of the children treated for injuries from glass furniture required special imaging tests to find buried pieces of glass – eighty percent went to surgery for laceration repair. A child in Rhode Island died last December as the result of a puncture wound from a glass table. Half of the childhood injuries seen at Children’s Hospital from glass top tables and other glass furniture could have either been prevented or less severe if tempered glass were the industry standard.