PhotoYou might think that accidents involving chemicals would be highest amongst adults -- probably most by those who work in industrial professions. However, a new report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that infants are actually the most at-risk when it comes to burning their eyes with chemicals.

The researchers point out that these accidents can often be permanent, a fact that makes them so tragic since they are also largely preventable.

“These are terrible injuries; they occur most frequently in the smallest of children and they are entirely preventable. These children do not deal with chemicals on the job. They are injured largely because they get into chemicals such as household cleaners that are improperly stored,” said study leader R. Sterling Haring.

Young children most at-risk

The study is thought to be the first to use a national sample that measures how chemical eye burns affect all age groups. The findings show that one- and two-year-olds are most affected by this type of injury; these two groups were twice as likely to sustain an injury when compared to 24-year-olds.

The researchers found that the number of injuries declined gradually with age, probably due to children learning about and recognizing the dangers of chemicals as they grew up. This is seen mostly in children younger than 10; for example, the researchers found that one-year-olds were 13 times more likely to burn their eyes than seven-year-olds.

Haring and his colleagues believe that the first step to lowering the number of accidents for this young demographic is for parents to keep harmful substances out of reach. He advises installing safety locks on all cabinets that store cleaners and other harmful products.

“These injuries can occur in an instant. Making household chemicals and cleaners inaccessible to young children is the best way to put an end to this,” he said.

The full study has been published in JAMA Ophthalmology

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