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According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the trend of deaths by electrocution from consumer products is downward from 480 in 1981 to 250 in 1991 (the most recent years for which data are available). This constitutes a reduction of 48%.
Estimated deaths from residential electrical fires run close to 700 annually and 6,790 injuries. In addition, CPSC estimates that several thousand injuries from electrical shocks and burns occur annually. Property damages due to electrical fires amount to over $1.2 billion each year. The consumer products involved in these deaths and injuries are the same kinds of electrical appliances and wiring systems common to households across the country.
Each year, about 3,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with electric extension cords. In 1992, the most recent year for which statistics are available, it is estimated that electrical extension and other electrical cords and plugs were involved in about 9,900 residential fires resulting in 100 deaths, or about 31% of all deaths in electrical distribution fires. By comparison, lamps and light fixtures were involved in about 20 deaths and switches and outlets were involved in about 30 deaths.
Consumers should check for problems in their homes' electrical systems. They should check outlets and extension cords to make sure they aren't overloaded. They should examine electrical cords to make sure that they aren't frayed or damaged or placed under rugs or carpets. They should make sure that the proper wattage light bulbs are being used in the light fixtures and lamps. They should consider installing Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). And one of the most important precautions consumers can take is to make sure the batteries in their smoke detectors are working properly.
Consumers can identify and correct many potential hazards themselves. They can check to see that lamps and extension cords aren't cracked, frayed or covered by rugs or furniture. The wattage of light bulbs should be checked to determine that the wattage is appropriate for the lighting fixtures. And consumers can check to see that electrical appliances are kept away from damp and hot surfaces and have appropriate air circulation.