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Child injuries on farms cost $1.4 billion a year

(Reuters) - More than 26,000 children and adolescents are injured on farms and ranches in the United States every year, racking up costs of more than $1.4 billion -- but only 84 of these were fatal, according to a new study.

The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, were the first to give an overall estimate of fatal and non-fatal child injuries related to farm life in the United states.

"The cost of youth agricultural injury is substantial, comparable to the costs of more frequently discussed risks such as unintentional child poisoning," Eduard Zaloshnja of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Beltsville, Maryland, and his colleagues report.

The study used data based on the 2001-2006 Childhood Agricultural Injury Surveys. Fewer than a third of the injuries were work-related.

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 Murphy, an agricultural safety expert at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, who was not involved in the new study.

"It's usually because of the equipment that's being used. It's powerful machines that will tear you apart very quickly."

The report shows that 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. They are learning work ethics, they are learning responsibility," Murphy added.

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 work tasks," Murphy said.

"Kids should not be in a rush to do adult things with tractors and other machines." SOURCE: http://bit.ly/cxXOG

(Reporting from New York by Frederik Joelving, editing by Elaine Lies and Bob Tourtellotte)

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