By Frederik Joelving
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - More than 26,000 kids and adolescents get injured on farms and ranches in the U.S. every year, racking up costs of more than $1.4 billion, according to new research.
The study, released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to give an overall estimate of fatal and non-fatal child injuries related to farm life in America.
Less than a third of the accidents were work-related and only 84 were fatal, researchers found based on 2001-2006 Childhood Agricultural Injury Surveys.
The fatal injuries accounted for $420 million of the total cost, based on lost wages and estimates of the value of pain and suffering.
"The cost of youth agricultural injury is substantial, comparable to the costs of more frequently discussed risks such as unintentional child poisoning or occupational needle stick injury," Eduard Zaloshnja of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Beltsville, Maryland, and colleagues report.
In 2001, about 1.1 million U.S. children and adolescents were living on farms or ranches. Fourteen percent of the injuries that occurred there led to hospitalization, compared to just 1.4 percent of the nation's child injuries overall.
"We know that agriculture injury is usually more severe than injuries to other types of audiences," said Dennis J. Murphy, an agricultural safety expert at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who was not involved in the new work.
"It's usually because of the equipment that's being used. It's powerful machines that will tear you apart very quickly," he told Reuters Health.
The report shows deaths were typically due to injuries from machinery, fire or explosions. Falls and transportation were the most common reasons for non-deadly injuries.
"There are a lot of hazards for kids on farms, but there are also a lot of good things going on," Murphy said. "They are learning work ethics, they are learning responsibility."
He added that parents should pay more attention to their children's safety on farms, and not let them handle equipment or do chores they aren't ready for.
"We know that most parents almost always overestimate their kids' abilities when it comes to works tasks," Murphy said. "Kids should not be in a rush to do adult things with tractors and other machines."
The researchers gave cost estimates in 2005 dollars. They did not include fire and police department costs, nor did they consider property damage or mental health care costs following accidents.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, online March 12, 2012.