Plastic barrel belinghams have become the most deadly, according to a new study that analyzed the most commonly used plastics in the United States.
The paper, published Monday in the journal Science, found that plastic barrel pumps account for more than 90% of all accidental gun injuries and nearly 40% of gun deaths each year.
In the past decade, the number of accidental deaths due to plastics in American life rose by over 300%.
“The plastic barrels that we use to fire our guns are the worst offenders,” said lead author Steven F. Ritchie, an associate professor of criminology at Boston University and a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The most common plastic barrels used in the U.S. are aluminum, which can cause a host of problems, including high friction and the release of a highly toxic gas, methane, or propane.
The researchers analyzed the use of plastic barrels and related materials in the most popular firearm designs and found that they accounted for more gun deaths than any other types of plastic in America.
They found that, compared to other types, plastic barrel pump was the deadliest of the four, with more than 60% of the deaths of the victims in that study occurring when the barrel was in use.
A total of 2,639 accidental firearm deaths were reported to the National Crime Information Center between 2006 and 2013, which is more than all the gun deaths reported in the previous decade.
“It’s a tragedy when people are killed, but when you’re shooting at someone who’s trying to hurt you, it’s not that bad,” said Foyen, who said he was not aware of any other study that looked at the plastic barrels in a systematic way.
The study used data from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to analyze data from nearly 500,000 accidents in the states where plastic barrel is manufactured.
In all, the researchers identified 2,000 cases of accidental gun deaths.
Of the 2,019 deaths, plastic barrels accounted for 5,928 of the total.
The number of deaths due, according the study, was higher in areas where the number and types of plastics used in barrel-fired firearms were similar.
The most common type of plastic used in these parts is aluminum, and this type was used in an average of 6.5% of incidents in the study.
Aluminum is not the only type of plastics that have been linked to accidental gun death.
Roxy, a polymer used to make plastic housing, also can cause problems.
Rivets, which are often used in construction materials, are also a common component in plastic barrel.
“We have to be vigilant about the safety of our product,” Ritchie said.
“That’s what we’re trying to do with this paper.
We’re trying out new materials to see if they can do more to reduce the number or types of accidental injuries that we see.”
The study was funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U and S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Energy and the U S Department of Agriculture.
Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter at @sipappas.
Follow the Wall Street Journos on Twitter and Facebook at @wsjjourno and @WSJmag.