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HomeHealthy AgingOlder Americans Are More Likely to Suffer Fatalities from Falls and Fire:...

Older Americans Are More Likely to Suffer Fatalities from Falls and Fire: CPSC Report Highlights Hidden Hazards Around the Home

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, CPSC releases new report on safety hazards facing older adults in and around the home

Americans over age 65 comprise 71 percent of consumer product-related deaths annually, despite making up only 16% of the population. Even in nonfatal situations, the most recent data show that products in the home can present significant injury risks, sending millions of adults over the age of 65 to the hospital each year.  

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) new reportConsumer Product-Related Injuries and Deaths Among Adults 65 Years of Age and Older, nearly three million older adults visit the emergency room each year for product-related injuries. Consumer products are also associated with about 3,800 reports of older adult deaths each year.  

“It’s a fact that older adults are far more likely to experience a significant injury, or fatality, from the hidden hazards associated with consumer products in their homes than other age groups,” says CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric. “This new report is an important reminder that preventing consumer product-related injuries and deaths to older adults often begins by following basic steps to improve safety in all areas of the home,” he added.

Falls are by far the most common product-related cause of injuries and deaths to older Americans.  Older adults are six times more likely to be treated at the emergency department as a result of a fall on flooring than younger people. Each year, on average, 1,800 deaths of older adults result from falls and 1.5 million ER-treated injuries. Falls typically occur on floors, stairs, steps and from beds. CPSC’s latest slips, trips and falls video is available here.

Other top hazards to older adults highlighted in CPSC’s report include fires, drowning, transportation, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and adult bed rails.

Fires

  • Older consumers are 3.5 times more likely to die in fires than the general population, with about 930 deaths annually. Smoking materials and cooking are two major fire sources. Clothing fire deaths are a hazard that disproportionately affects this group. The estimated clothing fire death rate for the 65-plus age group is 14 times higher than the rate for people under 65. See our PSA on fire prevention for older adults.

Drowning

  • There are about 300 deaths of older adults annually due to drownings, mostly associated with swimming pools, bathtubs and spas.

Transportation Under CPSC Jurisdiction

  • There are more than 200 deaths of older adults per year involving off-highway vehicles, bicycles and e-scooters.

CO Poisoning

  • About 45 older consumers die each year from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning from sources like heating devices, generators and other engine-driven tools.

Bed Rail Entrapment

  • Adult portable bed rails are involved in about 16 deaths per year for victims 65 and older. These bed rails are generally purchased to protect individuals who are at risk of falling out of bed.  Unfortunately, too many bed rails do not meet safety standards and create an entrapment risk, resulting in suffocation.  Victims can get caught, stuck, wedged, or trapped between the mattress or bed and the bed rail, between bed rail bars, or between a dresser and the bed rail.

What can older adults do to avoid these types of product-related injuries and deaths?

Older adults and their caregivers can work to prevent these tragic injuries and deaths by following these safety steps:

  • Install handrails on both sides of any stairs in your home.
  • Keep stairs well-lit and free of clutter.
  • When using stairs, always grip the handrails.
  • Keep floors cleared and slip resistant.
  • Remove loose carpets, cords, and other items that create a tripping hazard. Be sure all rugs, mats, and other surfaces are non-skid.
  • Install grab bars and slip-resistant surfaces in the bathroom.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of the home outside sleeping areas and inside each bedroom. Install carbon monoxide alarms on each floor.
  • Do not wear loose clothing while cooking on the stove. It can catch fire.
  • Keep an eye on food cooking on the stovetop and in the oven.
  • Check if the portable adult bed rails in your home have been recalled. If they have, do not use them. If purchasing new ones, look for bed rails that meet the ASTM voluntary standard ASTM F3186 – 17, Standard Specification for Adult Portable Bed Rails and Related Products.
  • Don’t swim alone. Take swim lessons. Use a flotation device if you are unsure of your swimming ability.
  • Have a professional inspect the furnace before turning it on for carbon monoxide or fire hazards. 
  • Never operate a portable generator inside the home. Generators should be used outside at least 20 feet away from the house, never near windows or vents.
  • Never run engine driven tools inside, even if for a short time to effect/test repairs.
  • Watch for traffic and wear the appropriate gear when riding four-wheelers, bicycles and e-scooters.

Read on for 6 tips for preventing falls around the home.

For more tips on falls and other hazards go to Older Adult Safety | CPSC.gov 

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