Most persons, particularly in large cities, reside in apartment buildings where they have no control over the boiler or hot water systems. A recent study showed that there are approximately sixty thousand hot water scaldings per year. It is now basically understood that the standard set for hot water by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), standard #Z21.10.1a-1991, is that the hot water should not generate water above 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Previously, during the 1970’s the standard was that water could not be above 140 degrees Fahrenheit; in the 1980’s the setting was lowered to 130 degrees Fahrenheit; and in the 1990’s it was lowered to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The valves should be adjusted on showers or tubs so that the handle’s stop position should not have water coming out of the spigot that is more than 120 degrees. New York State Plumbing Code § 424.3 requires valves that conform to the requirements of ASSE 101.6 and CSA B 125 which require a maximum setting so that water cannot exceed 120 degrees. A Harvard Medical School study dating back to the 1940’s showed the relationship between hot water and burns. The hotter the water, the less time it takes to cause a burn. When water is 150 degrees, a serious burn injury can be caused in two seconds; at 140 degrees, it takes six seconds; and at 130 degrees it takes thirty seconds. Most people take a bath or shower using water that is between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. With respect to older appliances, scalding protection should be provided by adding a thermostatic control which attaches to the showerhead and bathtub spigot. The way these devices work is that it is preset at a temperature for exiting hot water at 114 degrees. If the exiting water is more than 114 degrees, it will be stopped from exiting the tap. If the water in your bathtub or shower is scalding hot when you turn it on, you should complain to the landlord, super and/or managing agent. If they do not fix it, file a complaint with a government agency. If you are paying rent, you can ask for rent abatement on the grounds that the apartment is not properly habitable and is dangerous. Keep a record of your complaints, and make them in writing if possible, either regular letter or email. If anyone is hurt by scalding water you will then have a record of your complaints. There are numerous personal injury cases around the country, including New York City and its environs, involving burns from scalding water and some of the recoveries have been substantial. If the landlord attempted to fix the problem by using a plumber and despite the effort to repair it there is still scalding water and someone is injured, the plumber who failed to make proper repairs, as well as the landlord, could be held responsible.
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