There have been many stories over the years about the dangers of microwaves. You’ve probably heard allegations that microwaves cause cancer or that they can interrupt a pacemaker if you stand too close to them while they’re running. Both myths have been debunked many times over, but there’s one not-so-new danger that’s very real.
Microwaves are a danger to children.
Thousands of young children have been burned because they’re able to operate a microwave without adult supervision or assistance. The problem comes when it’s time to remove hot food from the microwave, and children either get hurt by touching hot food or cookware, or they lose their grip and get scorched as the food falls all over them. The problem has become enough of a product liability issue that manufacturers are making changes.
Why are kids suddenly getting hurt using microwaves?
Microwaves have been on the market and in our homes for decades, so this isn’t really a new problem. It’s merely a problem pediatricians and emergency room doctors finally began tracking after a Chicago pediatrician’s decade-long campaign to draw attention to the danger. There is no exact figure available regarding how many children have been seriously injured over the years from microwave use.
A look-back period of 11 years of children’s admissions to the emergency room revealed at least 7,000 microwave-related burn injuries in the United States. Current figures show that approximately 22% of burn unit patients across the country are toddlers with severe scald injuries from hot liquid and other microwavable items.
Solving the problem of toddler microwave burns
Despite microwave manufacturers claiming to have never received burn complaints, the data was provided to the U.S. Consumer Products and Safety Commission and the safety certification entity, Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The belief is that microwave safety needs to be viewed a different way and that microwaves should be manufactured to prevent child burn injuries from the start.
In 2014, UL unfortunately didn’t agree with the need to add a safety feature to microwave doors to prevent children from opening them. That prompted two of the doctors who collected the data on toddler burns to obtain voting rights on the company’s board. This gave them a better stage to change the minds of manufacturers by showing them the real-life consequences of children injured by microwave ovens.
A new design for countertop microwaves will roll out in 2023, implementing changes to the appliance that require two separate motions to open the door. The newly designed microwaves will come with a mechanism that allows the safety feature to be disengaged for those without small children or for anyone who has disabilities that might make the safety feature cumbersome.
It takes a lot to heal a scald wound
Depending upon the wattage of your microwave, you’re looking at a child spilling hot liquid ranging from 350 and 650 degrees onto their skin. An adult can suffer a third-degree scald burn at a temperature of 150 degrees. Because children have more delicate skin than adults, a 400-degree bowl of soup spilled down the front of their shirt can cause serious injury.
Severely scalded skin often requires medical attention. These injuries can take weeks or longer to heal even under professional medical care. Additional issues include:
- Medical bills can pile up. Emergency room visits and hospital admissions can skyrocket into the tens of thousands of dollars, even with good health insurance. Depending upon the level of damage caused by the burn, your child may also be looking at reconstructive surgery down the road to minimize scarring or disfigurement. The need for physical therapy is also a very real possibility to regain range of motion, depending upon where the burn is located.
- Pain and suffering is real. Children are resilient, but getting burned badly enough to send them to the hospital because they reached for their bowl of chicken noodle soup is painful and scary. Kids can be left with lasting trauma from these experiences.
- Lost wages can be a big problem. You may lose significant time from work to care for your recovering child. In addition to eventually performing at-home wound care, you may need to take your child to numerous follow-up medical appointments to ensure the burn is healing properly, avoiding potential infection.
It’s hard to hold our small children back from learning to become independent. While the tiniest things they learn to do for themselves are a cause for celebration, children should never operate appliances without adult supervision. Even then, there are hazards that adult supervision can’t overcome. Product manufacturers must begin anticipating injuries on every level of use.
If your child has been burned using a microwave or other appliance, schedule your free case evaluation today with one of our dedicated Atlanta product liability attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP by calling our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or by reaching out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.
Jed Manton is committed to representing individuals and business that have been harmed by the actions of others. With a solid track record, Jed has helped numerous clients who have been seriously injured or who have lost a loved one obtain justice, while holding the wrongdoer accountable.
Read more about Jed D. Manton here.