News & Opinion | March 6, 2021 6:00 am

Fireworks and Sex Toys: How Americans Are Injuring Themselves During the Pandemic

Just because we're staying home doesn't mean we're being safe

person holding fireworks in both hands
Don't do this at home. (Though plenty of people already did.)
Cavan Images via Getty

Masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, quarantine — a surface-level recap of the first year of the pandemic may have you thinking people were more conscious about their personal safety than ever before. As it turns out, Americans have a way of getting injured no matter the circumstances (let’s call it the AFV effect). 

This week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a report detailing how the pandemic affected hospital emergency room visits related to consumer products, and it’s a doozy. As The Washington Post summarized in its take on the findings, “People still got hurt, just in different ways.” 

The report looks at the beginning of the pandemic, from March to September 2020, and notes that while ER treatment for product-related injuries fell by 24% overall (potentially because Americans wanted to stay away from the hospital when possible due to COVID-19), severe injuries only decreased by 1%. 

The most interesting fluctuations, from where we’re standing, are generational. The CPSC data is split into product categories, and the agency’s report highlights which categories saw the biggest increase in injuries depending on age. For example, children aged 0-9 were much more likely to get into skateboard, scooter and hoverboard accidents than in the previous year. On the adult side, the age groups 40-49 and 50-59 both saw huge increases in injuries related to fireworks and flares, with the cases spiking 125% and 157% respectively. 

On the young adult side, those aged 20-29 saw a 133% increase in injuries from “massage devices.” That doesn’t sound so noteworthy, until you realize what that category includes. As the Post explained, massage devices “includes sex toys.” Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those unfortunate souls. 

Looking at product categories across age ranges, the other statistic that sticks out is hot tubs, spas and whirlpools, which the CPSC notes saw a 25% increase in injuries. While the report explains that this “apparent increase was not statistically significant,” it also notes that the “injuries most frequently involved adults, and were frequently slips or falls while entering or exiting the hot tub,” and often “alcohol was involved.” In other words, thankfully not what we were most worried about.