A new study on bathtub and shower-related accidents, prepared for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, finds that most children who suffer severe bath and shower injuries such as burns and drownings are not being supervised by an adult when these accidents occur. Many times, the report concludes, the parent has only left the bathroom momentarily, or the child is in the presence of an older brother or sister.
The study, A Systematic Program to Reduce the Incidence and Severity of Bathtub and Shower Area Injuries, was sponsored by the Commission and conducted by Abt Associates, Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts, social research organization. The study identifies typical accident patterns or scenarios and develops proposed ways of dealing with the hazards presented by bathtubs and showers.
One of the most significant findings in the report is that children under five years old, while comprising only 8.5 percent of the total U.S. population, account for almost 30 percent of the 110,000 annual bathtub and shower-related accidents. Over 75 percent of all bathtub and shower-related fatalities occur among children under five and 90 percent of the injuries and deaths occur when these young children are not being supervised by a responsible adult.
The study identifies three major hazards associated with bathtubs and showers -- slips and falls, burns and drownings -- and makes specific recommendations to consumers and manufacturers to meet those hazards.
Slips and falls in bathtubs and showers were found to be the most frequent type of accident. Burns from scalding water were less common, but generally much more serious, resulting in over 70 deaths each year. In addition, over 100 people drown every year in bathtubs.
The report suggests consumer education as the most effective and practical way of reducing the numbers of children injured and killed in bathtub and shower accidents. The study states that, "Our reliance on parental education is particularly important as a countermeasure to drownings...."
To deal with the problem of slipping and falling on slippery surfaces, the report recommends the development of a performance guideline to insure that every tub and shower has a slip-resistant standing surface. That performance guideline, according to the contractor, would include integral surfaces for new bathtubs and showers and would encourage the development and use of retrofit products for existing units. The Abt Associates, Inc. researchers also concluded that "existing types of integral surfaces, bath mats and appliques, designed to increase slip-resistance are not (totally) successful in eliminating this type of accident."
Anti-scald plumbing devices were suggested as a method of eliminating the scalding water and burn problem in new bathtubs and showers. A practical retrofit measure to prevent burns from scalding water would be to turn the hot water heater temperature down to 120 degrees fahrenheit. However, this preventative measure is only possible in homes without dishwashers, which require water temperatures higher than 120 degrees fahrenheit.
Consumers interested in obtaining further details may write to the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207. A copy of an information summary of the study will be available in the near future.
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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years.
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