Tennessee Bottle Bill

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Protect the Children: Injury Prevention Study of Glass Lacerations Among Philadelphia Children

Injury Prevention 1998;4:148-149
Reported incidence of injuries caused by street glass among urban children in Philadelphia

Martin A Makary

Objectives—First, to assess the incidence and cause of lacerations sustained by urban children from walking outdoors as well as to identify possible means of prevention. Second, to identify the type of health care sought after injury and to measure the extent of glass litter on the streets.

Setting—Children (18 years of age or younger) in the Ludlow community of Philadelphia.

Methods—A retrospective analysis of lacerations sustained while walking outdoors. A personal survey was conducted with 241 children on a door to door basis. Glass litter was measured by visual inspection of individual streets.

Results—Of 241 children, 83 (34%) had been cut at least once while walking outdoors. Of the 83, 62 were not wearing footwear at the time of injury. The majority of lacerations (86%) were caused by broken glass. Thirty nine of the 83 children received professional medical care for the laceration. Broken glass was estimated to be present on 30% of the outdoor walking area.

Conclusions—Broken glass is a significant health problem on littered urban streets. Preventive measures such as street cleaning, footwear education, and glass recycling incentives are needed to address this public health hazard.

Lacerations rank as the most common pediatric injury that requires a physician evaluation.1–5 Glass is a frequent cause of wounds in patients who present to an emergency department.

Both in England and the US, broken bottle glass has been reported to be the leading cause of lacerations, accounting for 15–27% of all lacerations seen in an urban emergency department.1, 6 However, while many studies have analyzed laceration injuries using emergency department data,1, 6–11 little is known about the out-of-hospital incidence or cause of lacerations in urban communities.

Lacerations due to glass can result in several health problems. Fragments of glass in a wound may lead to persistent pain, delayed healing, increased scarring, neuropraxis, and infection.12–16 In a prospective study of 415 children with cleaned and sutured lacerations in the lower extremities, 8.5% developed an infection.17 In addition, foreign body retention is more common when the wound is caused by stepping on glass as opposed to falling on glass, putting one's hand through glass, or being struck by glass.7 Glass injuries are special because the clinical assessment of the presence of a foreign body is difficult,18 and often insufficient to exclude the presence of retained glass.

This study was prompted by physicians and medical students, who during an urban immunization project, observed a surprisingly high prevalence of children playing without footwear in streets. The purpose of this study was to analyze the extent to which littered urban streets pose laceration dangers and to identify possible areas of prevention. A retrospective investigation analyzed the incidence and cause of lacerations sustained from walking outdoors, with particular attention to the circumstances surrounding injury (that is footwear, tetanus immunization status, and care given after injury) and the extent of glass litter on urban streets.

Of 241 children, 83 (34%) had been cut at least once in their life while walking outdoors. Eight children (10%) had been cut two or more times. The mean (SD) age of a child that had been cut was 8.9 (4.3) years. Most lacerations (81%) were caused by broken glass...

After the laceration had occurred, 24% received a tetanus immunization, and 29% required sutures. Altogether 35% received professional care at a hospital or health center for the injury. Fifty seven urban street blocks were surveyed for glass litter as described in the Methods section. Thirty per cent of the walking area was assessed to be dangerous because of broken glass.

Implications for prevention
In Massachusetts, broken glass recycling [bottle bill] legislation led to a 60% reduction in glass related lacerations in children in the course of one year.8 Such successful legislation is based on the model of providing a small financial incentive for the return of empty containers. The permanence of non-degradable trash, such as metal and glass, compounds the problem from year to year, calling for immediate preventive health action.

Ultimately, strong action is necessary to address broken glass as a health hazard. Glass littered urban streets need to be treated as an important public health problem.

Send this abovemenioned information to your elected members serving within the Tennesee General Assembly (and your local news media representatives) and request that they would help protect Tennessee children from glass lacerations by their enactment of SB 3616/ HB 3350 within the Tennessee General Assembly...


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