Overheated Tap Water Can Cause Serious Injuries


January 22, 2017

Being in hot water can mean more than just being in trouble. Excessively hot water, at temperatures above 135 degrees, can result in serious, sometimes permanent, injury. Scalding injuries, particularly to children, are serious and all too commonplace. Consider the following true story.

On a sunny summer afternoon, a single mother living with her two children in a two-bedroom unit in a poorly maintained public housing complex, walked from the kitchen where she had been preparing supper for her family over to the stairs leading to the second floor. Her 11 year-old daughter was upstairs in a bedroom minding her 2 1/2 year-old sister. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, the mother called up to the 11 year-old to give her little sister a bath. Dutifully, the 11 year-old went into the bathroom, put the plug in the bathtub drain, and turned the hot water faucet. She returned to the bedroom to remove her sister's diaper, the only garment she was wearing on this hot day. She carried her little sister into the bathroom and sat her down in three inches of water that had accumulated. The toddler howled instantly. Hearing her baby scream, the mother rushed upstairs and found her daughter crying hysterically in the bathtub. She grabbed her from the tub, and wrapped her in a towel. The sister was crying as well, calling out that she did not do anything. The mother quickly noticed that the water droplets on the little one were extremely hot. She reached in the tub to test the water but quickly withdrew her hand because the water was unbearably hot. She carried her crying baby to the bedroom where she laid her on the bed. Horrified, she saw that the child's bottom, legs and feet were a deep bright pink.

The skin on her bottom and one thigh was speckled with a dozen or more oozing blisters. The mom carried her daughter downstairs, where she reached for phone and called 911. The EMT traveling in the ambulance informed her that the child had been scalded and that they were taking her to the burn unit at a hospital across town. The child was admitted, where an experienced medical staff at the burn unit attended to her first, second and third degree burns. Over the next few months, she underwent several skin grafts, leaving obvious painful scar tissue. She also had to undergo a course of physical therapy to stretch the skin so that limitations on ambulation throughout the rest of her life would be minimized.

A day or so after the incident, Housing Authority inspectors went to the crawl space to examine the hot water heater that serviced the mother's unit. Their conclusion was that the dial on the hot water heater was improperly set on its maximum, 155 degrees. Their suspicion was that someone, probably one of the teenagers who frequently worked as lookouts for an open-air drug market that infested the complex, had been in the crawl space and manipulated the dial.

The incidence of children being scalded in a tub or shower are unfortunate. According to the American Burn Association, roughly sixty percent of all scalding victims in the United States are children under five. More than 5,000 children per year are scalded by hot tap water. The American Burn Association's statistics indicate that roughly one-third of all burn injuries that require treatment at a burn center are the result of scalding. Young children, older adults and individuals with disabilities constitute the largest group of victims.

There are four classifications of burns, first, second, third and fourth degree, from least to most serious.

  • First degree burns only the outermost layer of skin and is usually treated with a topical antiseptic.
  • Second degree burns are much deeper, and affect the second layer of skin. These can cause swelling, pain and redness.
  • A third-degree burn is even more serious. It penetrates the first and second layers of skin to the fatty layers of tissue below, and results in permanent painful skin injury.
  • With fourth-degree burns, the skin is charred and damaged beyond repair, as are the bones and nerves within the fatty tissue and muscle.

Burns from scalding water vary depending on how hot the water is and how long the exposure lasts. The American Burn Association reports that a child's skin will sustain injury in 1 second if it comes in contact with 155-degree water, in 2 seconds with 148-degree water, in 5 seconds with water at 140 degrees, and in 15 seconds with water at 133 degrees. Most scald burns are first and second degree, but a third-degree burn is not uncommon if the exposure lasts more than 10-15 seconds.

Contact Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law Today to Schedule Your Free Consultation

The causes of scalding injuries are technical and complicated. If your child or a loved one has been injured by scalding hot water in a bathtub or shower, Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, can examine what happened and advise you on your rights and options.

At Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law, our firm has more than thirty-two years of experience representing the rights and interests of clients injured in a variety of accidents from all across Georgia. 

To schedule your free consultation to speak with one of our attorneys, contact Montlick & Associates, Attorneys at Law today by calling (800) LAW-NEED (529-6333). You may also visit us online at www.montlick.com to complete a Free Case Evaluation Form, and you may also participate in a 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Source: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303577

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Category: Personal Injury

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