The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 4,000 children in the United States are burned by overheated water from residential water heaters every year. Many of these burn injuries are quite serious. Poorly designed and manufactured water heaters can also pose other dangers, depending on the defect, including risk of:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
Tap Water Burns
The most common type of water heater-related injury is tap water burns. This occurs when a water heater heats water to levels that are unsafe and can cause scalding on the skin. Children and the elderly are most susceptible to this type of injury, due both to delicate skin and to their relative inability to remove themselves quickly from the source of the burns. Tap water that is heated to 150 degrees or more is generally considered unsafe. However, even water at lower temperatures can cause first, second, or even third degree burns.
As such, the CPSC recommends that water heaters be set to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit to minimize the risk of burns. It should be noted that even at this temperature, sustained exposure for ten minutes or more may result in third degree burns.
Water heaters are required by the CPSC to have safety mechanisms that allow water heat to be set to safe levels. However, these safety mechanisms can malfunction as a result of a defect in design or manufacture, leading to overheated water and the potential for serious injury.
The other primary risks associated with home water heaters are fires, explosions, and carbon monoxide poisoning. This type of accident can be the result of poor heater design, a manufacturing defect or user error.