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Commission Acts On Hot Tap Water Scald Hazard

Release Date: March 21, 1979

The Commission has elected to invite outside opinion about appropriate temperature settings for hot water heaters to reduce scalds without compromising adequate hot water supplies in the home. A Federal Register notice, to be published shortly, will open a 60-day industry and public comment period.

Citing an estimated 2,600 scald injuries per year caused by excessively hot water, the Commission also plans to initiate a strong consumer education program to increase public awareness of the risk. The Commission will simultaneously encourage the gas and electric water heater industries to develop voluntary safety standards for warning labels and for lowering the factory pre-set temperatures on hot water heaters.

Gas and electric water heaters account for 98% of these products and share the market on a near equal basis in sales.

Data gathered by CPSC staff indicate that while a small portion of the population is affected by tap water scalds, the injuries are severe and sometimes fatal. An analysis of 159 death certificates compiled between July, 1973 and October, 1977 reveals that children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 65 are the most affected by tap water scalds. Of the 159 deaths, 116, or 75% involved these two age groups.

The elderly and the very young are the most susceptible to scald injuries because they are either unaware of the hazard or can not react quickly to it. Injuries often result when children under 5 years old unwittingly climb into a bathtub of scalding hot water or play with the hot water faucet. Elderly victims occasionally slip or fall into a tub of scalding water.

Pending receipt of information from the public, the agency has temporarily deferred action on a petition which requests a maximum temperature setting of 130° F. on new residential water heaters and warning labels on the heaters. The petition was filed by Your Seattle City Light Company of Seattle, Washington.

In addition, as noted above, the CPSC staff will continue to work with independent testing organizations including the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to foster development of warning labels and lowering the factory pre-set temperatures. Initial indications point to full cooperation by these organizations with the CPSC staff.

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About the U.S. CPSC
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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