A private member's amendment to limit water heater temperatures in new buildings, including day care centers, schools, community centers, kindergartens and old age homes, to prevent skin burns was approved Tuesday by the Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee for its second and third readings in the plenum. Similar laws in other countries have significantly reduced the incidence of accidental burns.
Over 340 physicians and other professionals signed a petition supporting the bill, which was initiated by Beterem (the National Center for Child Safety and Health) and written by MK Arye Eldad (National Union) who, before he joined the Knesset, treated burns as a physician in the plastic and maxillofacial surgery unit at Hadassah-University Hospital.
Water temperatures will not be allowed to exceed 55 degrees Celsius in new residences or 45 degrees in institutions for children and the elderly. Beterem said that, in 2001, 1,440 children were hospitalized with burns; 1,019 of these children were under the age of five. Skin burns are one of the most painful and devastating injuries and can lead to long series of operations, skin transplants and painful physiotherapy.
The average length of hospitalizations of burn victims aged 0 to 17 years is 10 days - three times the hospitalization time for other pediatric patients - and the lengths of these hospital stays make the treatment of young burn victims very expensive. Two-thirds of all skin burns are from scalding hot water, said Beterem, which is continuing to push for retrofitting of heaters in existing buildings.
Eldad said the law is very important because it is "...the first step in a series of laws and regulations meant to protect the public, especially the helpless. When I left my hospital's burn unit and went to the Knesset, I felt a moral and professional obligation to continue acting for the benefit of my burn patients, whom I treated for 25 years. Today, I am not actually treating them, but at least I can help prevent burns." Committee chairman MK Moshe Sharoni said the regulations have already been published and will go into effect in 180 days.