Homes are full of hidden burn hazards. Most, but not all, products are regulated for safety. Those that are regulated can still pose burn hazards in the hands of children. Products that have been recalled are often still sold in stores because a recall does not always require that the product be removed from shelves. Product liability can be difficult to prove.
Mattresses. Because they contain non-flame-retarded polyurethane foam, mattresses can go up in flames in just seconds. Mattresses containing the foam are typically sold without warning labels indicating their highly flammable nature. In Europe it is no longer legal to sell mattresses containing the foam, and in the United States prisoners and other individuals who are considered high risk are provided with fire-safe mattresses. Obviously children should be considered to be high-risk as well. Labels should not only warn of the high flammability of these mattresses but should also inform consumers of the elevated danger to children.
Stoves. Children are often scalded by liquids and foods when stoves tip over. In the past, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) required that cook stoves be fitted with an anti-tipping device, which wound ensure that stoves will not tip with 75 pounds of pressure on the open door. In 1990 Underwriters Laboratories (UL) raised the standard to 250 pounds. Tipping accidents commonly occur when a child opens the oven door and uses it as a step, causing the stove to tip forward and spill hot foods and liquid scalding the child. Children who fall down while holding on to the oven door can also cause the stove to tip. Electric stoves are more prone to tipping than gas stoves because they are not connected to the floor or wall. Tipping stoves can also crush a child. Children can receive contacts burns from touching the outside of oven doors, often by falling or reaching out for the oven when learning to walk. Over door windows are at eye level for small children, and burns occur both from reaching out and touching the window with their hands and from pressing their faces against the glass to see into the oven.
Room heaters. Room heaters, such as electric space heaters, are one of the most common causes of burns in children under the age of 14. Children can fall on the heater, burning themselves, or starting a fire. Children who stand too close to the heaters catch their clothing on fire. Heaters should be equipped with a screen that prevents children from reaching through and burning themselves by touching the heating element. Design flaws include screens that are too close to the heating element or have holes that are too large.
Curling irons. Every year approximately 7,700 children under the age of 5 are treated in emergency rooms for burns from curling irons. As curling irons are deigned to get hotter, the severity of injuries becomes much worse. Children can burn themselves by pulling on or tripping over cords pulling the irons down onto themselves, or by grabbing the hot iron itself. Very small children are not able to let go before the burn becomes severe.
Electronic devices for children. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires that video game machines, and other electronic toys created for children, can be operated for at least six hours without producing a fire hazard. Some video game machines begin to overheat and even cause fires after only two hours of use. Problems can occur within the units themselves and in their AC adaptors, creating enough heat to cause melting of the unit. Both can start fires, generate an electrical shock or cause contact burns. Other electronic toys for children, such as battery powered cars and handheld toys, can have battery defects which present a burn hazard.
Nearly 100,000 children are treated for burns every year. Hundreds of household products harbor hidden burn dangers. Federal, state and non-governmental organizations have set strict standards for most of these products but these standards are not always enforced. Too often, defects are revealed only when a child is injured or killed. Even after a tragedy occurs, consumer action is required to hold manufacturers accountable and bring the problem to light.