Study: Collapsible Hampers Caused Serious Eye Injuries in Two Children

collapsible_hampers_eye_injuriesResearch reveals that collapsible laundry hampers constructed with wire supports might be dangerous to children.

The researchers saw two eye-related injuries to two children within one year; both involved collapsible hampers and both children required surgery, according to Reuters Health. The hampers are made with an embedded stiff wire spring. This can be dangerous should the hamper’s cloth fray and expose wires, the researchers said.

“Parents should receive a warning of the risks of these hampers,” Dr. Iris Kassem from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her colleagues wrote in Pediatrics. The researchers described the two cases in which the children had one eye each punctured by a hamper wire, according to Reuters Health. An 11-year-old boy became injured when putting clothes in a collapsible hamper; a 23-year-old girl was also injured and both children required emergency surgery for lacerations to their eyeballs.

The boy suffered a corneal laceration when putting clothes in a collapsible laundry hamper. The wire mechanism snapped and struck his right eye, puncturing it, according to HealthDay News. The girl was poked in the eye from a wire that was protruding from a hamper. The boy required a second surgery and must now wear contact lenses, the study team said. The girl had to wear glasses and a patch for 18 months, according to Reuters Health. Both children required vision therapy resulting from losing sight in one eye at an early age; the boy suffered from exotropia, a type of crossed eye and the girl has amblyopia, or lazy eye, according to HealthDay News.

“There are dangers in lots of products and I think it’s great they called attention to this one, and certainly people ought to look at the design,” Dr. Michael Repka, a pediatric ophthalmology researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, told Reuters Health. Repka, was not involved in the study and said he had not personally treated this type of injury, but understands how it could happen. “But it’s not isolated to wire hampers,” he added. “Wires from lots of products can hit kids in the eye.”

“We’ve been on the market many, many years with these items … and never have we had a customer complain about anything, much less an injury,” Scott Felsenthal of Whitmor, which makes collapsible hampers, told Reuters Health. According to Felsenthal, the pop-and-fold hampers come with a warning label and Whitmor is looking into if a warning label should be included on its collapsible hamper.

Dr. Kassem said that warning labels are “a good start,” but design changes may be called for and recommended some precautions for parents. “One is to have the hamper in a safe location so children cannot be near or play around this product,” she told Reuters Health in an email. “The second thing I suggest is to check the integrity of the hamper and if the fabric is frayed in any way, it needs to be thrown away.”

HealthDay News explained that the hampers collapse and pop back into shape due to flexible wire that winds around the outside of the cloth hamper. “The wire has fabric holding it in place, and it’s like a humongous spring,” said Dr. Kassem. “When the fabric becomes frayed, the wire pops out and the end of the wire is very sharp.”

The boy and girl were treated within one year of each other at the University of Illinois at Chicago Eye and Ear Infirmary.

“The risk of vision [loss] is acute, and those patients require immediate evaluation in an emergency room,” said Dr. Alon Kahana, an oculoplastic surgeon at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. “Outcomes can be very good. There are some patients that end up with 20/20 vision, [but] there are some patients who end up with no vision at all.”

The authors have reported the injuries to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC), said Kassem, wrote HealthDay News. “Children shouldn’t be playing around these things, and if the integrity of the hamper is compromised in any way, you need to throw the product away,” Kassem said. “Most of these are cheap items not meant for extended use. People should see when something approaches the end of its useful life and toss it away.”

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