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Bath safety: call for thermostat valves on taps

MPs call for law to force new and refurbished homes in England to have valves fitted to control bath water temperatures and keep babies and children safe.

Posted: 30 March 2006
by Laura Lee Davies

MP Mary Creagh is campaigning for a law to be passed making it compulsory to fit thermostatic valves on bath taps in all new and refurbished homes.

The reason for this is that many children (and a small percentage of adults) suffer terrible burns from bath water which is too hot. It is thought that as many as 600 cases of severe burning a year are caused by those with thinner skin entering a bath when the water is too hot.

ThinkBaby Bath Safety

Advice from RoSPA and other safety bodies recommends
  • Bath water should not be hotter than 43 degrees C
  • This temperature should be lowered to around 32 degrees for babies and children
  • Test the temperature with your elbow not your fingers
  • Take your baby out of the bath if you are going to adjust the temperature by topping up
  • Put a flannel over taps which might still be hot when your baby has got in
  • Never leave a baby or child unattended in the bath, not even for a moment
  • Run the cold water first then bring the temperature up with the warm tap

The valves become a legal requirement in Scotland from May and are already compulsory in a few other countries, including Australia.

Although Creagh accepts that most parents would not knowingly expose their children to water that is too hot, the hundreds of accidents each year are caused when parents run the hot water first when running a bath, and then a toddler slips in, jumps in too early to retrieve a toy or gets in when a parent's attention is called away to the telephone or to another child.

Hot water in most domestic household tanks is kept at about 60 degrees C in order to fend off bacteria, but the valve would prevent the water running in a bath any hotter than 48 degrees C. RoSPA would like to see this set at 46 degrees C.

Creagh has the support of health professionals who see children suffering with severe burns (just as with a fire) simply from household water being too hot.

For more information on household safety and water in particular, visit the RoSPA website.

ThinkBaby factfile

  • High accident rate - According to RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), 13 children under five years old are severely burned or scalded in the home every day.
  • Common mistakes - Hot water is the main reason for fatal and severe scalding injuries in the home.
  • It all happens so fast - Partial burns will occur within 30 seconds of exposure to water at 55 degrees C.
  • Relatively cheap - The cost of fitting a suitable thermostat valve is around £140.

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