Toaster Incidents Pop Up in Accident Reports
Very few adults eat toast for breakfast. Of the 1 in 1.64 who usually have a morning meal, almost a third (1 in 3.23) choose cold cereal. Many others opt for hot cereal or bacon and eggs. But toast is comparatively rare — just 1 in 20 people routinely eat it in the morning.
Toast is at a clear disadvantage. Browning a slice of bread to perfection takes minutes; pouring a bowl of cereal takes seconds. Convenience aside, toast is also not the most nutritious breakfast available. And, of course, it’s dangerous.
Dozens of Americans each year report toaster-related injuries, and it is estimated that many hundreds more remain silent. Burns, fractures, lacerations, fire, electric shock—all of these are potential hazards associated with toasting bread. Since 1991, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has documented these incidents. Of the 339 cases so far recorded, over half consist of burns to the hands, arms, face, legs, and torso.
Most toaster injuries, as can be inferred from the CPSC’s figures, are perfectly innocent: a renegade slice of bread gets stuck, the patient tries to free it, the patient gets burned. In one case from January 2004, a 64-year-old woman got quite close to her toaster and peered into it. As soon as her bangs came into contact with the heating element, they ignited, causing burns to her forehead.
One recurring injury is, in the Commission’s words, “Burn to fingers secondary to taking Pop-Tart™ out of toaster.” The frosted breakfast pastries are implicated by name in three injuries, including one where a molten Pop-Tart™ stuck to a 46-year-old woman and caused second degree burns to both her hands.
On very rare occasions, toaster injuries are the result of deliberate misuse rather than inattentiveness. In 2006, for example, a 14-year-old boy received a gash above his left eyebrow when he fell after being chased by his brother. For unexplained reasons, he was carrying a toaster. In 2007, a man took out his anger on a toaster, punching it and bruising his own hand. In the same year, another man attempted to throw a toaster. His right index finger got caught.
The first commercially successful toaster, patented in 1909 by Frank E. Shailor for General Electric, was a dangerous-looking combination of exposed heating elements and skeletal cages. And as artist Thomas Thwaites who tried to build one from raw materials has shown, constructing a modern toaster can be a perilous affair. Despite vast improvements on Shailor’s original design, toast remains hazardous to prepare. But it has always been tasty to eat. In the words of a 1907 advertisement for the Vulcan Toaster, toast is “Deliciously browned; sweet as a nut… The outside of the slice crisp and snappy; the inside as soft as a freshly baked biscuit.”