Scalds are nasty injuries that send thousands of people to emergency rooms each year and cause dozens of deaths. About 60% of scald injuries occur to children under the age of 5. The elderly are also especially vulnerable. Many scalding incidents occur in the bathroom.

Water temperature of 150 degrees can cause third-degree burns (the worst kind, penetrating all layers of skin) in as little as two seconds of exposure. A six-second exposure to 140-degree water will cause similar damage.

As a result, plumbing codes and standards have evolved to minimize the danger of scalding. For instance, water heaters nowadays are shipped from the factory with an outlet setting of 120 degrees, compared with 140 degrees years ago. Even 120 degrees can cause third-degree burns, although it takes five to eight minutes of exposure for that to happen.

For most people that’s plenty of time to get out of harm’s way, but not necessarily for children or senior citizens. That’s why the young and old are the most common scalding victims.

Two-handle faucets and shower valves create a greater danger than single-handle outlets, simply because two-handle units have one outlet intended specifically for hot water. Mostly they are found in older buildings, although some stylish modern faucets and shower valves are made with separate hot and cold outlets.

Two-handle faucets and shower valves should present no problems if the plumbing design and installation are combined with code-compliant temperature and pressure relief valves. Scalding risk has increased somewhat due to the recent trend toward low-flow, water conserving faucets and shower valves. With suitable temperature and pressure balancing valves the risk all but disappears. Professional plumbers know how to install them. Most do-it-yourselfers do not.

Ultimately, plumbing engineers and plumbers can do only so much to protect you and your loved ones from scalding. Most accidents occur not because of faulty products but human error or inattention. Here are some of the things you can do to safeguard your home against scalding episodes.

  1. Always test the water temperature before putting a child in a bathtub. Immerse your arm all the way up to the elbow. The water should feel warm, not hot, to the touch. The temperature should not be above 100 degrees F.
  2. Never leave young children alone, even for a moment, near a pool or bathtub. Young children can drown quickly in even small amounts of water, and while playing they may accidentally turn the hot water handle all the way up.
  3. Always keep a young child within arm’s reach in a bathtub. If you must leave, take the child with you.
  4. Don’t leave a baby or toddler in a bathtub under the care of another young child.
  5. Install grab bars in convenient locations around bathtubs and showers to assist elderly users.

If you have concerns about the temperature of your water, give us a call! We can also help install accessibility and safety features to give you ease and peace of mind.