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Eye injuries in children from non-powder guns on the rise, new study says

paintball-2Eye injuries from BB guns, pellet guns and other non-powder firearms have become more common in recent years in U.S. kids, according to a paper published this month by the Journal of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. 

The study, led by Stanford ophthalmologist Douglas Fredrick, MD, looked at eye injuries from recreational activities that were severe enough to send children to emergency departments between 2002 and 2012. (Fredrick has seen his share of pediatric eye injuries in his work treating kids at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.)

Non-powder guns caused more eye injuries than all other causes put together, including fireworks and such sports as baseball, tennis and hockey. Many of the injuries caused permanent damage to children's eyesight, though the proportion of kids who had their vision damaged depended on the type of gun that injured them.

The paper found that since 2006, eye injuries from paintball guns, a type of non-powder gun, have dropped off. Face masks worn for paintball are very effective at preventing eye injuries, as the photo above illustrates.

But this good news was offset by increased eye injuries from air guns, which include BB guns, pellet guns and "airsoft" guns that fire lightweight plastic bullets. From a press release issued by the journal:

“These results demonstrate that air guns can cause severe, yet preventable, eye injury among the pediatric population,” explained [Fredrick]. “To reduce rates of pediatric eye injury, both practitioners and air gun companies should promote and lobby for eye safety mandates among all air gun users. Furthermore, changes in state policy to regulate possession and usage of air guns among minors may be warranted to reduce rates of accidental injury.”

Previously: Instagram for eyes: Stanford ophthalmologists develop low-cost device to ease image sharing, Study: ER statistics could be used to reduce gun violence and New retinal implant could restore sight
Photo by Victoria Padevit Brown

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