Glass Tabletops More Dangerous For Kids Than Guns

Over and over again, we’re told that guns are some deep, pressing threat to our children. We hear from anti-gunners that if we don’t enact the gun control they demand, children will die. It’s an old, tired method of playing off parental fears, but it works more times than we might care to admit.

However, it seems that for all the hand-wringing over guns, there’s a bigger threat out there.

On 26 July 2020, a paper titled: Glass table injuries: A silent public health problem waspublished in the American Journal of Surgery

The paper detailed an examination of how many accidents involving glass tables occurred in the United States, how severe the injuries from such accidents were, and the distribution of injuries by age. The annual number of fatalities from accidents involving glass tables was projected to be about 400.

Most people do not consider glass tables to be a significant risk for accidents. 400 deaths a year sounds like a lot. It is about .13 per 100,000, out of a total of 731.9 per 100,000 total. 400 is .00018 of the total number of deaths in the nation each year.

The results of the article have been widely published in the public media. From newsmax.com:

Bonne’s group found more than 3,200 U.S. cases of glass table-related injuries requiring trauma center care occurring between 2009 and 2015. The data was collected from the 96 sample hospitals included in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database. More than half of the injuries were traced to faulty glass tables, the researchers noted.

Multiplying that by the almost 5,000 emergency care centers nationwide, Bonne’s team estimated there are about 13,800 U.S. cases of severe injury tied to glass tables each year.

The team also looked more closely at the 24 cases that their Level 1 trauma center treated between 2001 and 2016. In this smaller grouping, the investigators found that half of their patients experienced injuries to their deep organs, upper torso, abdomen or joint cavities and required surgery. About 8% died within a month of injury. Most of the injuries were suffered by children younger than age 7 or adults in their early 20s.

The study has a bar chart showing the distribution of cases by age. From the chart, it was simple to obtain good distribution numbers.

42% of the accidents were for children. 13.9% were for children under the age of five.  The projection, from the study, is for 400 fatalities from glass table accidents per year.

That translates to 168 children aged 0-17 who die in fatal accidents involving glass table tops per year. 55 of those children are projected to be under the age of five. The study numbers were done from 2009 to 2015.

During that period, there was an average of 86 children who died in accidents involving firearms per year (601 for 7 years). There was an average of 24.4 children who died each year, on average, under the age of five (178 for 7 years) in accidents involving firearms. From the CDC WISQARS database:

In other words, a glass tabletop is more dangerous than your firearm.

Yet who sounds warning bells about glass tabletops? The only warnings I ever give people is that they’re a nightmare to keep clean, based on my own experiences with one. I never warned anyone that it could result in their child being killed.

Meanwhile, plenty of people will freak over the mere idea of having a gun and a child in the same house, despite us now knowing which is the bigger threat.

That’s because people don’t have an irrational fear of glass tabletops. They can see the threat they potentially pose and make a rational decision either for or against them. Guns, however, are a different matter. There, people have been conditioned to freak out. They’ve been told over and over again how dangerous they are, so they’re downright fearful of them and their mind warps any numbers into a bigger problem than they are.

Now, at least, we can quantify the threat. There really isn’t much of one.