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Last Modified: January 1, 2007
Last Reviewed: January 1, 2007
Content Source:
Office of Minority Health & Health Disparities (OMHD)


Highlights in Minority Health
& Health Disparities
January, 2007

 

     Have a Safe and Healthy Winter!

 
WINTER AND HOLIDAY SAFETY

The holidays are a time to celebrate, give thanks, and reflect. They are also a time to pay special attention to your health and safety.1  The winter and holiday season can present special challenges to your familyís health and safety, including fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, motor vehicle injuries, and others.
 

TABLE 1: DEATHS PER 100,000 POPULATION
by Selected Causes and by Race and Hispanic Origin.

Race & Hispanic Origin

Residential Fire Deaths * Carbon Monoxide Deaths ** Motor Vehicle -Related Deaths, 2003 ***
All Populations 1.0 Not Available 14.8
  White 0.8 Not Available 15.1
  Black 2.2 Not Available 14.6
  American Indian/
  Alaska Native
0.9 Not Available 27.3
  Asian American 0.3 Not Available 8.3
  Hispanic/Latino 0.6 0.12 14.8

Not Hispanic

     
White 0.9 0.17 14.9
Black 2.2 0.17 15.0
Sources: * WISQARS   ** CDC/MMWR  ***NCIPC

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RESIDENTIAL FIRES
Deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States and the third leading cause of fatal home injury.2    Most residential fires occur during December through March -- a period of colder weather and longer darkness.3   House fires during the winter holiday season kill 500 and injure 2,000 people, and cause more than $500 million in damage.4
In 2003, African Americans had the highest death rate from residential fires: 2.2 per 100,000 population.  Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders had the lowest death rate from residential fires: 0.3 per 100,000 population, a relative disparity rate of 633%.5
The rate of death due to fire is higher among the poor, minorities, children under age 5, adults over age 65, low-income communities in remote rural areas or in poor urban communities, and among individuals living in manufactured homes built before 1976, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development construction safety standards became effective. Other risk factors for fire-related deaths include: inoperative smoke detectors, careless smoking, abuse of alcohol or other drugs, incorrect use of alternative heating sources including usage of devices inappropriate or insufficient for the space to be heated, inadequate supervision of children, and insufficient fire safety education.6

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TIPS FOR PREVENTING RESIDENTIAL FIRES
blue square Install smoke alarms on every floor of the home, including the basement, and particularly near rooms in which people sleep.7
 
Test all smoke alarms every month to ensure they work properly.7
blue square Devise a family fire escape plan and practice it every 6 months. In the plan, describe at least two different ways each family member can escape every room, and designate a safe place in front of the home for family members to meet after escaping a fire.7
blue square Select a fresh Christmas tree that is kept in water at all times. Needles on fresh trees should be green and should not fall off easily. Don't put your tree up too early or leave it up longer than two weeks. Dried out Christmas trees can ignite easily and boost a fire by spreading it rapidly to nearby combustible materials.4
blue square Place your Christmas tree in a safe place, away from heat sources such as a fireplace or heat vent.4
blue square Maintain your holiday lights. Inspect your lights before you use them to ensure they don't have frayed wires, gaps in the insulation, broken or cracked sockets or excessive wear. Only use lighting that is listed by an approved testing laboratory and don't leave the lights on when you're not home.4
blue square Avoid overloading electrical outlets. Don't link more than three light strands unless the directions indicate it is safe. Periodically check the wires. They should not be warm to the touch.4
blue square Use only nonflammable decorations that are placed away from heat vents and if you're using an artificial tree, make sure that it's flame retardant.4
blue square Avoid using candles. If you do use candles, ensure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.4
blue square Do not leave lit candles unattended, never put candles on a Christmas tree and never leave the house with candles burning. Place menorahs away from vents or flammable materials.4
blue square It's also important to know that fires caused by children increase during the holiday season. According to our National Fire Incident Reporting System, children cause nearly 60 house fires a day in mid-December, with another sharp increase on New Year's Day. Parents should take precautions to prevent such avoidable tragedies.4

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MORE ABOUT FIRE SAFETY
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD)
Fire Prevention in the Home
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
Health Objectives for the Nation Deaths Resulting from Residential Fires -- United States, 1991
US Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC)
Holiday Decoration Safety Tips
U.S. Fire Administration

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CARBON MONOXIDE (CO)
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.8
During 2001--2003, an estimated 15,200 persons were treated annually in Emergency Departments (EDs) for nonfatal, unintentional, non--fire-related CO exposure, and, during 2001--2002, an average of 480 persons died each year from unintentional, non--fire-related CO exposure. The majority (64.3%) of nonfatal CO exposures were reported to occurr in homes.9
green square The death rate was highest for non-Hispanic whites and blacks (0.17 per 100,000) and lowest for other non-Hispanic races (0.12), a relative disparity rate of 41.7%.9
green square Although males and females were equally likely to visit an ED for CO exposure, males were 2.7 times more likely to die from CO poisoning (0.24 per 100,000 population vs. 0.09 for females), a relative disparity rate of 167%.9
green square The nonfatal rate for CO exposure was highest for children aged <4 years (8.2 per 100,000 population), whereas the CO death rate was highest for adults aged >65 years (0.32). Adults aged >65 years accounted for 23.5% of CO poisoning deaths.9

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Tips for Preventing CO Poisoning
blue square Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
blue square Do install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
blue square Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
blue square Don't use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
blue square Don't run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
blue square  Donít burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isnít vented.
blue square Donít heat your house with a gas oven.10

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MORE ABOUT CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Unintentional Non--Fire-Related Carbon Monoxide Exposures --- United States, 2001ó2003
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality
Protect Your Family and Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Medline Plus: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
US Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC)
Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers
U.S. Fire Administration
Exposing an Invisible Killer: The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

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MOTOR VEHICLE INJURIES
Motor vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of death among children and young adults in the United States and the leading cause of death from unintentional injury for people of all ages.  More than 43,000 people in the United States died in motor vehicle crashes in 2003,11 and another 2.9 million people sustain non-fatal injuries.12  During the winter holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Yearís, 1,292 fatalities occurred in 2003 from motor vehicle accidents; during New Years more than half were alcohol-related.13
red square Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) ages 1-44.14 Motor vehicle -related death rates for AI/ANs are 1.8 times the rate for all Americans (27.3 vs. 14.8 per 100,000) --=the highest rates of all racial and ethnic groups (see table).5
red square Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) had the lowest motor vehicle-related death rate (8.3 per 100,000), and their death rates were just over half of the rates for all Americans (8.3 vs. 14.8 per 100,000).5
red square Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics ages 1-34, and the fifth leading cause of death for Hispanics of all ages.15
red square Motor vehicle crashes rank either one or two as the leading cause of death for African Americans aged 1-34 years.5
red square Male drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes are almost twice as likely as female drivers to be intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater.  A BAC of 0.08% is equal to or greater than the legal limit in most states.16
red square At all levels of blood alcohol concentration, the risk of being involved in a crash is greater for young people than for older people. In 2003, 25% of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking alcohol.16

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TIPS FOR PREVENTING MOTOR VEHICLE INJURIES
blue square  Placing children in age- and size-appropriate restraint systems reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half.17
blue square Drivers and passengers can cut their risk of dying in a crash by half simply by buckling up.18 The use of safety belts is the single most effective means of reducing fatal and non-fatal injuries in motor vehicle crashes.10
blue square Avoid driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

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MORE ABOUT MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Motor Vehicle-Related Injuries
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)
Child Passenger Safety: Fact Sheet
Impaired Driving
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999 Motor-Vehicle Safety: A 20th Century Public Health Achievement
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Fatalities Related to Impaired Driving During the Christmas and New Yearís Day Holiday Periods
National Safety Council
Seat Belts and African Americans
Seat Belts and Hispanics

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OTHER HAZARDS
General Holiday Safety
CDC: Holidays the Healthy Way
Office of Womenís Health: Tips to Holiday Health and Safety
Federal Citizen Information Center: Holiday Safety
HealthFinder: Take Holiday Safety in Stride
Naval Safety Center: Holiday Season Resources
Crime Prevention
Holiday Safety Toolkit
Falls
CDC: Fall-Related Injuries During the Holiday Season-United States, 2000-2003. MMWR December 10, 2004, 53(48) 1127-1129.
Fatalities and Injuries from Falls Among Older Adults-United States, 1993-2003 & 2001-2005, MMWR November 17, 2006 / 55(45);1221-1224.
Food Safety
FoodSafety.gov: Holidays
CDC, Food Safety Office: Holiday Cooking: Keeping it Safe
Indoor Air Quality
Environmental Protection Agency: Winter Wise Tips
Toy Safety
http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/toy_sfy.html
Workplace Safety
CDC, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH): Safe and Healthy Workplaces in the Holiday Season

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SOURCES
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Womenís Health, 2004
  2. CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), Fire Deaths and Injuries: Fact Sheet, 2006
  3. CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), Health Objectives for the Nation Deaths Resulting from Residential Fires -- United States, 1991, 43 (49): 901-904
  4. FireSafety.gov, Holiday Fires Can Be Prevented Ė Saving Lives and Preserving Property, 2004
  5. CDC, NCIPC, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)
  6. CDC, Revised Final FY 1999 Performance Plan And FY 2000 Performance Plan
  7. CDC, NCIPC, Fire Deaths and Injuries: Prevention Tips, 2006
  8. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Carbon Monoxide, 2006
  9. CDC, MMWR, Unintentional Non--Fire-Related Carbon Monoxide Exposures --- United States, 2001ó2003; 48(18): 369-374
  10. CDC, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  11. Guide to Community Preventive Services, Chapter 8: Motor Vehicle Occupant Injury, 2006
  12. Department of Transportation (DOT), National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Traffic Safety Facts 2003 Data
  13. US Department of Transportation (DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Persons Killed and Percent Alcohol-Related During Holiday Periods, 1982-2003
  14. DOT, NHTSA, American Indian/Alaska Native Outreach
  15. DOT, NHTSA, Programas Comunitarios Latino/Hispanic
  16. DOT, NHTSA, Black/African American Outreach
  17. DOT, NHTSA Asian American/Pacific Islander Outreach
  18. CDC, NCIPC, Impaired Driving, 2006
  19. CDC, NCIPC, Child Passenger Safety, 2006
  20. CDC, NCIPC, Buckle Up America Week, 2006

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