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Pop-Up, Wire Hampers Linked to Severe Eye Injury Risk: Study

According to a study by researchers from the University of Illinois, collapsable laundry hampers may pose a serious risk for severe eye injuries, especially among young children.

In a case study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers reviewed two eye injuries suffered by children within a year of one another.

In both cases, children sustained severe injuries to the eye after a wire collapsible hamper punctured their eyeball. The researchers say these types of “pop-up” hampers could be prone to such problems and are calling for manufacturers to make the design safer.

The hampers that caused the eye injuries have become increasingly popular in recent years, with an embedded wire spring with a polyester covering. The flexible wire spring spirals around the cloth, allowing the hamper to easily collapse and fold to less than one and a half inch thick and pop back into shape. If the cloth covering the wire spring becomes frayed, the wire may become be exposed and pose a risk of injury.

Both children who sustained injuries required emergency surgery. The first patient, an 11-year boy, was injured while placing clothes in the hamper. He suffered a puncture to the eye after the wire within the hamper snapped out of place and struck his eye. He required a second eye surgery and now wears a contact lens as a result.

The second patient was a 23-month old girl, who developed a lazy eye after the incident. She was poked in the eye by the wire spring protruding from the cloth. Her vision eventually returned to normal after wearing glasses and a patch for a year and a half.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago Eye and Ear Infirmary say the injuries can result in poor vision or other vision-threatening complications. The injuries seen in the two children are very rare, but serious, and were compared to injuries sustained during high velocity accidents.

The wire poses a double risk, the researchers indicate, as it not only can cause injury as a protruding object, but can also quickly and unexpectedly pop out with enough force to cause significant injury.

Researchers suggest that households with this type of collapsable hamper are at higher risk of child eye injuries. The findings have been reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Whitmor, a manufacturer of collapsible hampers like those addressed in the case study, has indicated that they have received no reports of injuries from the hampers. Currently, their pop and fold sorting hamper comes with a warning label, but the company claims it is in the process of determining whether the collapsible hamper design should require a warning label as well.

Researchers recommend households which have this type of hamper should check the integrity of the hamper to determine if the fabric is frayed in anyway. If the fabric is frayed the hamper should be thrown away. They also recommend placing hampers in a safe location out of the reach of children. Researchers warn wires from other products may pose a risk for injury as well.

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