The real reason pizza sends a lot of people to the emergency room

In 2018, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission tweeted a shocking fact: there were 2,300 people sent to the emergency room in 2017 because of pizza.

What? If you had no idea there were that many people being injured by pizza, you're not alone. Responses to the tweet ranged from disbelief to, well, extreme disbelief, probably much to the chagrin of those people who have actually been hurt by pizza. (Is there a support group for that? There might need to be.)

Do some digging, and you find it's actually no laughing matter. The entire point of the CPSC is to keep track of unnecessary hazards the public is exposed to, and they also issue recalls and educate consumers about potential hazards. It turns out that pizza is just a small part of that, and some of the dangers are seriously no joke. These pizza-associated dangers are real, and some of them are downright deadly.

Delivery drivers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country

Pizza delivery drivers face more on-the-job dangers than you might imagine. In fact, their job is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in America.

The instances of violent robberies and assaults on drivers are terrifying. Just take what happened to Josh Lewis in 2015. According to Vice, he was delivering pizza when he was carjacked and stabbed in the back. The knife punctured a lung, and he was rushed to the emergency room.

The list goes on and on. In 2015, a female delivery driver was kidnapped at gunpoint, and then sexually assaulted by the same guy she was delivering the pizza to, says SF Gate. Also in 2015, a Houston pizza delivery driver was assaulted and robbed by a group of thugs who had ordered a delivery to a vacant apartment. He was left bloody and bruised, but Click2Houston says he got off relatively easy… that time. Two years before, he was delivering pizza when he was robbed and shot in the arm.

In June 2018, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on a group of armed people preying on delivery drivers in southwest Atlanta, one of which was pregnant.

They're also the cause of so many accidents

In 1993, The New York Times reported that Domino's was ending their 30-minute delivery guarantee after a St. Louis jury handed out a $78 million compensation settlement to the family of a woman killed by a Domino's driver. Domino's appealed the amount, but agreed that it was time for their guarantee to go. It wasn't the first deadly accident caused by the guarantee, but it was the final nail in its coffin.

It hasn't stopped the tragic accidents, though — especially since many Domino's restaurants still have their own 30-minute rule for drivers. A Domino's driver was involved in a 2013 accident that killed one person and left her husband with permanent brain injury (via Forbes). The pizza chain was found to be at fault, in part because of lax regulations on the safety inspections performed on their vehicles.

Then, in 2017, a delivery driver drove through the storefront of her own Domino's in Hialeah, Florida. Injuries to the people inside were minor, but the driver — who said she hit the gas instead of the brake — was taken to the hospital (via ABC Local News 10). It's not getting better, either. In 2018, The Wichita Eagle reported a Pizza Hut driver was being held responsible for a crash that left one 86-year-old woman with broken ribs and killed her 59-year-old daughter. 

Watch those fingers!

Anyone who's ever had a knife slip on them knows how bad it hurts, and it's not just home cooks that slice-and-dice their fingers. Jim D'Angelo is the COO of Lou Malnati's, a pizza chain with 35 locations around Chicago. They had such a problem with cooks cutting their fingers that they require staff to wear heavy, mesh metal gloves when they're doing things like cutting dough balls, and he says (via Pizza Today) it's cut down on their injuries dramatically.

Pizza wheels can be just as dangerous when it comes to wandering fingers, and it's not always a cook's fault. In 2015, the CPSC recalled a series of Calphalon pizza wheels (commonly sold at places like Kohls and Target) because of "laceration hazard." The handle of the pizza cutter had a tendency to snap while cutting, and landed several people in the hospital for stitches and emergency medical attention. Around 328,000 pizza wheels were sold, so it was a very real risk.

Then, there's the potential for fire

We'll start with the CPSC, who issued an alert regarding pizza stones way back in 1997. It was found that if customers followed the directions and cleaned them as the information booklet described (use oil on them, then put them in an oven at 550 degrees Fahrenheit), they'd catch fire. Not ideal.

Then, there's the chance the pizza oven itself will catch on fire. That happened in 2013, when a gas oven in a food trailer serving pizza malfunctioned and sent a nearby worker to the hospital with first and second degree burns (via The Ledger). There was another major fire in 2016 at an Uno Pizzeria & Grill, and their oven door exploded after a can of cooking spray fell into the pizza conveyor. That one also caused burns to workers (via CBS Boston).

And finally, there are at least two oddly specific incidents of dogs swiping unguarded pizzas off stovetops, hitting the switches, and nearly burning down their homes. One was a Staffordshire bull terrier from England (via The Irish Independent), and the other was a black lab from Connecticut. Now, the important part: both dogs were fine, and no regrets were had.

Finding bones is a very real risk

Do you like chicken on your pizza? It's an excellent meat choice, but it's also one that's sent several people not only to the hospital, but to court.

In 2010, Calla Felicity was enjoying a BBQ chicken pizza at Round Table Pizza in San Francisco. Unfortunately, there was a bone in the chicken. She swallowed it without realizing, and it not only got lodged in her throat, but it punctured her esophagus in two places and did so much damage it took 11 surgeries to repair. She went to court and sued both the pizza place and the chicken supplier, and that's when HO&P says it was found there had been 206 complaints about bones in the supplier's chicken between 2005 and 2010, with some bones splinters finding their way onto pizza toppings. Felicity was awarded $2.5 million for her near-death experience.

There's a real danger when it comes to chicken-topped frozen pizzas, too. The Stroud News and Journal reported that a British woman was campaigning for warnings on store bought pizza after she choked on a chicken bone from a frozen pizza.

Lots of people get hit in the face with them?

The world is a strange place, and if you need any proof of that, how about this: People get hit in the face with pizzas way more than you'd expect.

Let's talk about just a couple of those incidents. In 2011, 73-year-old magician Paul Daniels was guest-starring on the popular British kids' show The Sooty Show, when a puppet threw a frozen pizza at him, hit him in the face, and sent him to the hospital with an eye injury. There's literally nothing about that sentence that makes the least bit of sense, but there's at least a decent ending — The Telegraph says he was fine, and they also say Sooty the puppet apologized.

A few years later, BroBible was laughing at a guy who slapped someone in the face with a piece of pizza, and then promptly got cold cocked and knocked out. And, on a more serious note, Fox News reported on a 2018 incident of domestic violence that ended with one Ohio man being arrested for hitting his girlfriend. She was driving when he started hitting her, and at one point, he hit her in the face with a pizza.

Keep those eyes on the road

In 2013, Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson crashed his 2009 GMC Yukon when he was driving home from picking up a few pizzas. One started to slide off the seat, he reached over to catch it, and drove into the road's median wall. He ultimately had to have surgery to fix the broken bones in his arm, according to ESPN. There are no reports on the ribbing he got when he turned up to the locker room for the first time after the accident, but have you ever felt more connected to a celebrity?

Another pizza-related traffic accident nearly took the life of a man driving down an Arkansas interstate in 2017, and it's a weird story. Darren Moore was following a semi laden with pizzas, and when the semi tried to drive under a bridge that was too low, Moore's truck was suddenly filled with frozen pizzas. According to NBC KARK, Moore was taken to a nearby hospital, but was ultimately fine. They quoted him as saying, "Every day I see a wreck on most of the major highways in central Arkansas. I didn't think I would ever get hit by a load … of pizzas."

For the love of common sense, let it cool

Pizza is delicious, but always make sure it's cool enough that it's not going to burn your mouth. Sometimes, it's serious.

Healthline says the tissues of your mouth are incredibly delicate. That's a good thing, as it means they're receptive to all the tastes and textures of eating and drinking. But they're also among the most easily burned tissues of the body, and they specifically cite pizza as a major culprit. 

Yea, right, you're saying. But pizza burns can be real and they can be serious, as in the case of an unnamed 36-year-old patient highlighted in a paper by Aristotle University's School of Dentistry. She bit into a cheese pizza and was left with painful lesions in the soft tissues of her mouth. According to the researchers, it's not the first time they've seen it and it's most common with microwaved pizzas and other microwaved foods containing cheese. Cheese gets extremely hot and stays hot for a long time, and they note that the internal temperature of microwaved cheese is often higher than the external temperature. That means that just because it looks like it's cool, you're better off waiting a few extra minutes.

The other odd and miscellaneous injuries

Sometimes, it's just a freak accident that sends someone to the hospital. (Just look at the case of Phineas Gage, one of the most notorious, bizarre accidents of the 19th century. Only… don't be eating pizza while you read it.)

There are some other bits of randomness included in the 2,300 pizza-related injuries the CPSC was tweeting about, and Munchies rounded up a few more of the stranger examples. Sure, there were a lot of cuts and burns, but there was also one 58-year-old guy who had to go to the hospital for medical treatment after he sustained unspecified injuries when he — wait for it — fell out of bed reaching for a piece of pizza.

The tweet also says other injuries included people who fell while carrying pizzas, while picking up their carry-out orders, and people who were burned by pizza pans. By now, you're asking if it's a fluke. CPSC's social media specialist Joe Galbo says it's not. "I wish we could make a call on how Americans are doing as far as eating pizza, but … it wouldn't be scientifically appropriate to say that the change in injuries is statistically significant."

Here's what else you should be afraid of

All this brings up an important question: What else should you be afraid of? The 2017 data highlights from CPSC's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System are a fascinating read, and it proves that you had no idea just how many people are hurt by the equipment in their kitchen on a yearly basis.

Did you know, for example, that an estimated 24,082 people were hospitalized by stoves and barbecues that year? (Even more surprising is that's about half the number of people who are injured by television sets… what are you doing, America?!)

Glass bottles and jars are another danger, with 44,865 people injured in 2017 alone, and that's about on par with the 55,537 people injured by fridges and freezers, and the 59,921 hurt by small kitchen appliances. That's nothing compared to the damage done by cans, and those sent around 304,718 people to hospital. Now you know what to look out for. Cans.