Paper Shredders Pose Serious Injury Risk

Lack of safety precautions cause toddlers to lose fingers to paper shredder blades.

With the ominous rise in identity theft cases, more and more people have been purchasing paper shredders for their homes. But recent studies show that these paper shredders can lead to finger injuries, lacerations -- and even amputations -- in young children.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently investigated home paper shredder injuries. Their research showed that 22 (71 percent) of the 31 home paper shredder injuries were to children under 12 years of age. Over half of those injuries involved children under 3 years of age.

Children like to imitate adult behavior, and using a paper shredder is no exception. Since most paper shredders were originally built for office use, they do not include child-safety components. The CPSC assessed that a home paper shredder's opening (where paper is entered) ranges from 13 to 16.5 inches, allowing easy access for a toddler's little fingers. And every one of these machines potentially allowed a child's fingers to reach through to the cutting blades. In addition, most of these shredders do not include on/off buttons and instead are automatically activated when papers (or fingers) are placed in the opening. Researchers concluded the article with a call to manufacturers to redesign the shredders to make them safer for children and to display clear warnings directly on the machines.

"It's a dangerous piece of machinery and leaving it in the home unattended and accessible to young children could result in a serious hand injury," said George Foltin, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at New York University School of Medicine and Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Bellevue Hospital Center. "If you have one, it needs to be unplugged and out of children's reach."

The CPSC offers the following safety tips -- to protect both parents and kids -- for your home paper shredder:

  • Never allow children to operate paper shredders, even under adult supervision. Paper shredders can pull children's fingers into the shredder mechanism.
  • Place the paper shredder in an area less accessible to children.
  • Unplug the paper shredder power cord when the shredder is not in use.
  • Do not place hands or fingers in the shredder opening.
  • Do not operate a paper shredder while wearing loose fitting clothing that may enter the shredder opening.
  • Keep hair and items, such as a tie or a long necklace, away from the shredder opening.

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