Water heaters are a source of serious burns

Water heaters are a source of serious burns

Since 1988, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recommended that water heaters come preset with a maximum temperature of 120 degrees, as a way to prevent burns. Manufacturers agreed to follow those recommendations, but their voluntary agreement apparently did not solve the problem.

Serous and sometimes fatal burns continue to happen from tap water that gets too hot. A new study has found that the problem may stem from water heaters. Despite the recommendations put in place 25 years ago, many water heaters are set dangerously high, the study found.

A scientist decided to study the issue after finding a surprising number of burns from tap water. About 1,500 people are admitted to the hospital with tap water burns every year, and on average 100 people die from these injuries.

She and her colleagues checked the maximum temperatures of hot water heaters in nearly 1,000 homes. In more than 40 percent of the homes, the water heater was too high. In 27 percent of the homes, the temperatures exceeded 130 degrees.

Temperatures that high can be dangerous for people who are very young because their skin is thinner. Older people may be less sensitive to temperature, which means they may not move away from dangerously hot water quickly enough.

In many homes, the water heater does not have a thermostat to adjust the maximum temperature. To avoid tap burns, the researcher recommends that homeowners run hot water for three minutes and test the water with a candy thermometer.

Source: National Public Radio, "Many Water Heaters Set Too High, Upping Burn Risk," Eliza Barclay, March 28, 2013

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