By Genevra Pittman
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Collapsible laundry hampers with wire supports may pose a risk to children's eyes, according to researchers who saw two related injuries within a year, both requiring surgery.
Such hampers have an embedded stiff wire spring, which can be dangerous if the cloth frays and the wire becomes exposed, researchers said.
"Parents should receive a warning of the risks of these hampers," Dr. Iris Kassem from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her colleagues wrote Monday in Pediatrics.
They describe the cases of two children who each had an eye punctured by one of those wires - an 11-year-old boy injured while putting clothes in a collapsible hamper and a 23-month-old girl.
Both needed emergency surgery for cuts on their eyeballs.
The older boy had a second surgery and now wears a contact lens, according to the study team. The younger girl developed a lazy eye but her vision returned to normal after wearing glasses and a patch for a year and a half.
Dr. Michael Repka, a pediatric ophthalmology researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said he had not personally treated this type of injury, but sees how it could occur.
"There are dangers in lots of products and I think it's great they called attention to this one, and certainly people ought to look at the design," Repka, who wasn't involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.
"But it's not isolated to wire hampers," he added. "Wires from lots of products can hit kids in the eye."
Repka said it's too early to draw conclusions about collapsible wire hampers based on these two cases - other than to say a wire that's poking out at kids' eye level is a hazard.
A representative from Whitmor, which makes collapsible hampers, said no eye injuries have been reported to the company.
"We've been on the market many, many years with these items … and never have we had a customer complain about anything, much less an injury," Scott Felsenthal told Reuters Health.
He said Whitmor's pop-and-fold hampers come with a warning label and that the company will be looking into whether its collapsible hamper needs a warning label as well.
Kassem said warning labels are "a good start," but some hampers may require design changes as well.
She recommended two precautions for parents.
"One is to have the hamper in a safe location so children cannot be near or play around this product," she told Reuters Health by email. "The second thing I suggest is to check the integrity of the hamper and if the fabric is frayed in any way, it needs to be thrown away."
SOURCE: Pediatrics, online July 1, 2013.