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Tap water scald prevention: it's time for a worldwide effort
  1. Murray L Katcher
  1. Professor of Pediatrics and of Family Medicine, Director of Community Outreach, University of Wisconsin Medical School, 600 Highland Avenue, H6/4, Madison, WI 53792-4116, USA (Tel: +1 608 262 8416, fax: +1 608 263 0440, e-mail:

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    The Injury Classic by Feldman et al,1 reprinted in this issue (238), brought tap water scald burns to the attention of pediatricians and others as an example of a predictable and readily preventable injury. Building on the work of Moritz and Henriques,2 who determined the duration of exposure to hot water that would result in full thickness epidermal burns of adult skin at various temperatures, Feldman's article not only looked at the epidemiology of these burns in children but also put forth suggestions for prevention. Applying the Haddon matrix3 as well as the common means of injury prevention—education, environmental/technological, and legislative/regulatory—to the prevention of tap water scald burns provides injury control teachers and researchers with an excellent model for the prevention of injuries in general.4 In reviewing the literature in preparation for a recent talk at the 4th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Control in Amsterdam (presentation at conference, 18 May 1998), I discovered articles on the epidemiology and prevention of tap water scald burns from Australia, Canada, China, France, Israel, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, and other countries. At the conference, I was informed by several people that these scald burns are a significant problem throughout the European Community, as well as on other continents. Tap water scald burn prevention methods will need to be varied from country to country.

    Before I review some of the efforts to prevent tap water scald burns in the United States, I would like to mention how Ken Feldman and his work affected me personally. Sometimes it is truly “by accident” that our careers take a major change in direction, and this certainly happened to me. When I was a third …

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