Paper Shredders: A Hidden Danger in Your Home

Paper shredders are commonplace in many homes. With the prevalence of identity theft, consumers are advised to shred any documents being disposed of that contain personal information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or social security numbers. Many consumers are unaware of the danger that paper shredders pose to their family members and pets.
Originally designed as business equipment for office use, paper shredders were created for adults to use in an environment where children and pets are not commonly found. With the popularity of home use, these machines are increasingly causing extreme physical harm.

Children are curious and often fascinated by paper shredders. The majority of the reports received by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPS) involve children under five years old. The force of the pull may pull children’s fingers in if they don’t let go of the paper. The small fingers of toddlers can easily get caught and lacerated or mutilated.

Children may also decide to “feed” the paper shredder food, which increases the likelihood of the household pets licking the shredder. The CPSC has received reports of dogs who have gotten their tongues stuck in paper shredders, and it is hard to tell how many of these horrific accidents have gone unreported. Dogs with long, floppy ears are also at risk of getting caught in the sharp blades of a paper shredder.

Most dogs who have lost their tongues have been euthanized. The possibility of bleeding to death is only the first danger. Dogs need their tongues to eat, drink, and pant. The quality of life of a dog who has lost his tongue and survived is severely compromised. They must learn to swallow again, and must be fed a soft diet. They must be carefully monitored in hot weather and when exercising, since they can’t pant to avoid to lower their body temperature.

Dog owners who have tried to rescue a dog who is in extreme pain and panic from being caught in the shredder have had fingers bitten off by the dog.

Cats are also at risk. Cats are natural acrobats and love to jump on top of things. The warm motor may encourage them to take a comfortable snooze on top of the paper shredder. Their fur, skin, or feet may become caught in the blades. Naturally curious ferrets or other household pets that roam the house freely are also at risk.

Consumer groups are pushing for better safety standards for paper shredders, but there are already many unsafe machines in homes. Protect your children and pets from being harmed by following these safety tips:

Keep your paper shredder out of the reach of children and pets. Never allow small children to operate the shredder, even with supervision.

Never leave your shredder in the “auto feed” position. Even better, leave the shredder unplugged. It will be more inconvenient to get the shredder out of it storage and plug it in each time you need to use it, but it is a small price to pay to keep your family from harm.

Never put food wrappers, or thicker material such padded envelopes and product packages through the shredder.

Replace your old shredder with a new one which is designed with safety in mind. A bar across the opening, narrower paper slots, and blades further away from the opening are some of the features to look for.

Keep your fingers as far away from the opening as possible, and secure neckties, long hair and loose clothing and jewelry when using a paper shredder.

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