Home ‘laundry hampers‘ injuring children’s, adults' eyesight

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by Scott Noll / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 11:32 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 14 at 12:03 AM

HOUSTON – They’re lightweight, convenient and in homes across America. But are wire, pop-up hampers hiding a hazard that could change your life forever?

The KHOU 11 News I-Team has uncovered what some call a troubling trend of people reporting they were seriously injured by the hampers.

Patsy Williams had no idea of the risk.

The busy mother of four hoped the pop-up laundry hamper she planned to put in her son’s room would make her life easier.

Williams says the hamper was life-changing, just not in the way she expected.

“I just dropped everything,” she recalled. “Went to my knees, holding my face.”

Williams says as she opened the packaging to remove the hamper when it happened.

“It just sprung up, and when it sprung up it sprung out,” Williams said. “I saw it come up but I couldn't stop it because it was so fast.”

She says a 10-inch piece of metal from the hamper’s frame ripped through the fabric, then ripped through her right eye.

“Cut straight through, all the way to the back,” said Williams. “All the way through the eye.”

The horror is familiar to 11-year-old Keon Reeves.

“I just pray to God I can see out of the eye,” said Reeves.

His eyeball was also slashed by the wire frame of a pop-up hamper.

“I was putting clothes in the basket and it popped out, like real fast,” Reeves said.

Houston attorney Benny Agosto demonstrated the danger.

He represented Williams in her lawsuit against the makers of her hamper.

Agosto says part of the problem lies with the way the hamper pops up.

“When you see a thin piece of nylon that can shred and this wire is under pressure, pushing against that nylon, then we're causing a hazard,” explained Agosto.

A hazard like the one 23-month-old Jeniah Peete encountered.

A wire from her kids’-themed hamper tore through its fabric and damaged her eye.

Dr. Iris Kassem treated both the toddler and Reeves.

“When I first saw Jeniah I thought ‘Wow, this is a freak accident. What bad luck she has,” said Kassem. “Then Keon comes in and a light bulb immediately went off and I said, ‘Oh no. I think this is a pattern.”

In fact, the 11 News I-Team found since 2009, at least five people across the United States reported being seriously hurt by the hampers.

“The fact that there's four or five or half a dozen folks that have reported injuries, that's five or six too many,” said Agosto.

The reports prompted consumer advocate Ami Gadhia, of Consumer’s Union, to call the hampers emerging hazards.

“Given the number of these types of products in people's homes, I think it's entirely possible there are more stories out there like this,” Gadhia told the I-Team.

Williams’ injuries were so severe she lost her right eye.

“Ain't worth it,” she said shaking her head. “It's not.”

Williams is now calling on the government and manufacturers to make the pop-up hampers safer.

She’s particularly troubled by the stories of children whose lives may be changed forever.

“I look at it like this,” began Williams.“If it was your child what would you do? What would you do?”

The I-Team made repeated attempts to contact the owner of Household Essentials which bought Whitney Design, the maker of Williams' hamper. James Glenn has not returned our calls seeking comment.

A spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission told the I-Team that the agency is looking into injury reports involving the hampers, trying to determine if an investigation into the safety of the product is warranted.

If you have been injured by a pop-up hamper or any other product you can report it to the CPSC by clicking here.

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