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Updated 11:00 AM April 19, 2004



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Burn Center launches anti-scald campaign

Emma Brown was only a year old when, crawling into an empty bathtub to retrieve a toy, she accidentally turned on the hot water faucet. Her babysitter was washing a load of laundry at the time, which caused the water temperature in the heating tank to spike and scalding water to pour into the bathtub with Emma in it.

As a result, Emma suffered second- and third-degree burns. Now 11 years old, Emma has undergone 10 surgeries and is getting ready for another operation to correct her burn injuries.

Emil Malaniak, a resident of a senior living facility, was showering when the warm water suddenly spiked to a scalding temperature. Unable to manipulate the shower valve, he attempted to shield himself with the shower curtain. But within seconds, he received second- and third- degree burns over his legs and feet, and later died from his injuries.
Each year, approximately 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths occur in homes in the United States due to scalding from excessively hot tap water.

To prevent these scald burn injuries from occurring, the Trauma Burn Center (TBC) is launching a campaign to educate plumbing and building trade professionals, landlords and homeowners about how they can take action to stop these unnecessary burn injuries.

Each year, approximately 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths occur in homes in the United States due to scalding from excessively hot tap water, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The majority of those injured are the elderly and children younger than 5.

Severe damage to an adult's skin can occur in 30 seconds when exposed to water temperatures at 130 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it takes up to five minutes for a severe burn injury to occur if the hot water heating system is maintained and distributed at the recommended 120 degrees F, allowing people time to react and remove themselves from the hot water.

"The exposure time for each temperature can be cut in half for children or the elderly because their skin is thinner and more sensitive," says Dr. Paul Taheri, medical director of TBC. "Also, they are unable to react as quickly due to their age or physical limitations."

Instead of just setting the thermostat on the water heater to 120 degrees F, TBC recommends that anti-scald mechanical devices such as thermostatic mixing valves be installed near the water heater to mix the hot and the cold water to deliver it at the safer temperature of 120 degrees F. This is especially important when one system supplies hot water to numerous apartments or units.

In addition, anti-scald safety devices that limit the water flow to a trickle if it exceeds 120 degrees F should be installed on showerheads and faucets, TBC recommends. These products are inexpensive, easy to install and ideal for older homes and buildings built before code requirements for safe showers and bathtub temperature limits were in place.

Professionals who have the knowledge, ability and power to make changes that enforce existing codes should be made aware of these important scald prevention facts and devices, TBC says.

"It is important to bring awareness of the potential dangers related to scald injuries," says Jan Malaniak, Emil's daughter. "We want to alert others that our father's death could have been prevented had we known to inquire if proper anti-scald devices were in place in his assisted living facility."

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