MONDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 27,000 children are
injured on farms in the United States each year, and many require
hospitalization, according to a new study.
Many of these serious, sometimes fatal, injuries are caused by
agricultural industrial hazards, such as falls from tractors or
machinery accidents, the researchers report.
"To address this serious problem, prevention should focus on better controlling both child access to agricultural recreational activities and child assignment to agricultural work tasks that exceed developmental norms," said lead researcher Eduard Zaloshnja from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Beltsville, Md.
"This study finds that, similarly to adult agricultural injuries, youth agricultural injuries tend to be more severe and more costly than non-agricultural injuries," Zaloshnja added.
The report, scheduled for print publication in the April issue
Pediatrics, was published online March 12.
To gauge the extent and cost of the problem, Zaloshnja's team
combed the U.S. Childhood Agricultural Injury Survey and Multiple
Cause of Death data for 2001 to 2006.
Of about 26,650 kids ages 19 and under injured annually, 14
percent were hospitalized, and 84 died on average each year. By
comparison, just over 1 percent of non-farm-related children's
injuries warrant hospital care, the study said.
"These injuries cost society an estimated $1.4 billion per year in 2005 dollars," Zaloshnja said. "Work-related injuries annually cost $347 million or 24.4 percent of the total cost."
But most of the children's farm accidents (about 71 percent) and
fatalities (86 percent) weren't work-related, which suggests a need
to better supervise and better educate kids in farm areas, the
Dr. Judy Schaechter, an associate professor of pediatrics and
adolescent medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of
Medicine, said the study shows that kids are seriously hurt on
farms in great number and at great cost.
The high rate of non-work-related accidents "draws attention to
the fact that prevention must go beyond the needs of adolescent
agricultural workers alone," she said.
"We need to work with farm owners, agricultural industry operators and employees bringing their children to work regularly or even infrequently because they cannot find child care on a weekend, a teacher-planning day or when a child is sick," she said. "Those kids also deserve serious 'sunlight' in terms of injury prevention."
Also, the findings are consistent with other injury studies that
show a far higher proportion of non-fatal injuries than fatal,
Schaechter said, noting that the small number of fatalities
sometimes gets ignored. "Ironically, that small number has a very
high economic cost," she added.
Better analysis of the dangers kids face on farms is needed,
Schaechter said. "Open air and nature have great virtue, but there
are specific risks to agriculture brought on by specific and heavy
equipment, chemicals used, bodies of water, etcetera, as well as
degree of parental supervision," she said. "Analysis of such risk
can lead to appropriate prevention strategies."
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