Every hour a child is treated in US for injuries from non-powder guns marketed as toys
The number of eye injuries from non-powder firearms increased by 50% from 1990 to 2016, with BB guns accounting for most of the injuries.
A child is treated every hour in the US for injuries from popular non-powder guns — airsoft, BB, pellet and paintball guns — which continue to be marketed as 'toys' or ‘starter’ firearms.
The number of eye injuries related to non-powder firearms increased by 50% during the study period, though there was an overall decrease in the rate of non-powder gun injuries — from 16,456 in 1990 to 8,585 in 2016.
Stating that non-powder firearms can cause serious and even permanent disability, the research team — from the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital — have called for stricter regulations.
"Non-powder firearms can cause permanent, severe disability, and even death. They are more powerful than many people think, and some can achieve a muzzle velocity similar to a handgun. Stricter and more consistent safety legislation at the state level, as well as more child and parental education regarding proper supervision, firearm handling, and use of protective eyewear, are needed,” says senior study author Dr Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
The research team investigated non-powder firearm injuries treated in US emergency departments (EDs) among children younger than 18 years from 1990 through 2016.
According to the analysis, published in Pediatrics, an estimated 364,133 children were treated in US emergency departments for injuries related to non-powder firearms during the study period. The average age of children with a non-powder firearm injury was 12 years. The findings state while the “number of injuries decreased by 48% during the study period, in 2016, there was still a child treated every hour in the US.”
"While it is good to see that the overall number of injuries from non-powder firearms is going down, it is important to note that they remain a frequent and important source of preventable and often serious injury to children," says Dr Smith.
The researchers found that eye injuries accounted for 15% of non-powder firearm injuries, and the number of eye injuries increased by 50% during the study period. These injuries were often serious, says the team, with 22% requiring admission to the hospital. The most common types of injury were corneal abrasion (35%), hyphema (13%), globe rupture (10%), and foreign body (9%). Experts say that these injuries can result in serious adverse outcomes, including partial or complete vision loss.
Among cases where the type of firearm could be determined, BB guns accounted for 81% of injuries, followed by pellet guns (16%), paintball guns (3%), and airsoft guns (less than 1%).
Paintball gun injuries had the highest proportion of hospital admissions (12%), followed by pellet guns (8%) and airsoft guns (7%).
"The severity and increasing rate of eye injury related to non-powder firearms are especially concerning. One way to help reverse this trend is to make sure that protective eyewear is worn every time non-powder firearms like BB, pellet, airsoft, and paintball guns are used," says Dr Smith.
A previous study by Dr Smith, also published in Pediatrics, had said eye injuries associated with non-powder guns were nearly eight times more likely to result in hospitalization than eye injuries associated with other sports and recreation activities and equipment.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology do not have specific recommendations for eye protection when using BB and pellet guns. However, they do recommend wearing eye protection meeting the ASTM standard when using paintball guns,” the 2018 study had stated.
Currently, there are no federal laws regulating non-powder guns. However, two voluntary standards have been adopted, and manufacturers generally comply with the safety specifications included in these standards, say experts.
There are state safety regulations for non-powder firearms, but they vary greatly, and can be easily circumvented, says the team. The variability in regulations includes the age cutoff for child access, with some applying to children younger than 18 years of age and others only to those younger than 12 years of age, say researchers.
According to experts, findings from the current study indicate that the prevention of non-powder gun-related eye injuries deserves special attention as they are preventable.
Calling for more prevention efforts, the team recommends increased child, parent, and coach education, as well as the adoption of consistent rules that require the use of appropriate eye protection, which can help prevent many of these injuries and keep children in the game.