December 1, 2009 / 6:05 PM / 9 years ago

Some kids still swallowing soda can safety tabs

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Beverage can tops are still finding their way into the stomachs of some children, especially teens, despite being redesigned in the 1970s to keep people from swallowing them, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

A 16-year study at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found 19 children had swallowed the safety tabs, which are designed to fold back but stay attached to cans for soda and other beverages.

“I think we all know if you fiddle with these stay tabs, you can easily break them off,” Dr. Lane Donnelly, who led the study, told reporters at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago.

The study included children aged 1 to 18 at his medical center, but he suspects many cases go unreported.

Donnelly said he suspected children break off the tab, drop it into the soda can and inadvertently swallow the tab. When broken, the tabs have jagged edges that could perforate the stomach or intestine.

Since the tabs are made from aluminum, they are much harder to detect on an X-ray than coins, which babies and toddlers often swallow, Donnelly said.

He said parents should be aware of the problem and that beverage companies might consider a newer design that makes the tabs harder to break off.

As for the children in his study, none required surgery, although one was sent home with explicit instructions from the emergency department that read: “No sucking on can tops.”

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Peter Cooney

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