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2 Investigators: Children Injured By Wire Hampers

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Wire-framed hampers like this one allegedly have injured the eyes of children. (CBS)

Wire-framed hampers like this one allegedly have injured the eyes of children. (CBS)

Pam Zekman Pam Zekman
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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(CBS) — Collecting your laundry in a hamper shouldn’t be a life-changing moment. Unfortunately, 2 Investigator Pam Zekman has discovered one type of hamper that is leaving children scarred for life.

Eleven-year-old Keon Reeves was putting his clothes in a pop-up laundry hamper when he says the end of the spring tension wire “popped out” and slashed his eyeball.

“I was just stunned,” said Angela Neal, who grabbed her son and rushed him to the hospital. Keon required surgeries to close the wound and repair the retinal damage.

““The kind of injury he had is devastating, and the chance of him having good vision in the end is unlikely,” says Dr. Iris Kassem, a pediatric opthalmologist at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Doctors say Keon may not be able to drive, which is devastating to his mother.

“I just pray to God that I can see out the eye,” Keon says.

Dr. Kassem said his prayer might be answered with a new special contact lens.

In the meantime, Angela Neal has hired an attorney to sue for damages as a result of Keon’s injuries.

“The fabric is so thin and the stitching is so inadequate that it allows the coil to just pop out,” says their attorney, Michael Kedzie, pointing to the sharp edge at the tip of the spring tension wire. “It’s like having a knife on a spring inside a hamper.”

Another case involves a similar collapsible hamper that’s designed to attract children with a Tinkerbell motif.

Toddler Janiah Peete cut her eye when the wire frame of the hamper snapped loose. She was rushed into surgery to repair the damage.

“I couldn’t help her, I think that was the worst part,” her mother, Tania Peete, says.

The Peete family is also readying a lawsuit. Their attorney, Michael J. McCready, says toys that have spring-tension wires must have safety enhancements required by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards for toys.

But not hampers, even those designed to attract children like the one that injured Janiah Peete. It was made in China.

“This was a dangerous product when they designed it, it was dangerous product when they made it and it was dangerous product when they shipped it,” McCready says.

Janiah was also treated by Dr. Kassem.

“When i first saw Janiah, I thought, ‘Wow, this is a freak accident, what bad luck she had,’” she says. “And then Keon comes in and a light bulb immediately went off and, oh no, I think this might be a pattern.”

A third local eye injury — to a 4-year-old and involving a pop-up hamper — was settled for $665,000 before the family even filed a lawsuit. The settlement agreement required the family not to talk about the case.

But Keon Reeves wants to talk about what happened to him as a warning others.

“I think it should be off the market because I don’t want no one else to be hurt or in pain like I did,” he says.

Some spring-tension hampers have a warning label saying they should be kept away from children and your face while opening them up. One version CBS 2 examined says if the material frays on the top, sides or bottom after extended use, don’t use it. It also says you should “allow a secure distance from your body and objects around you before letting the hamper pop up.”

A spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission says the agency has no standards for this product category as it does for toys. Since a hamper is not a toy, manufacturers are not required to protect the sharp tips.

She said the CPSC will watch the CBS 2 report and urged consumers to file reports about any product they believe is unsafe. Click here to do that.