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Hot Water Heater Health Hazards To Be Aware Of

Construction & Contractors Articles

Water heaters – everybody has one. They are in every home and used every day. But owning a water heater and using it frequently doesn't mean you know how to avoid the health hazards associated with them. Outlined below are the two main health hazards you might encounter due to your water heater. After reading this article you will know not only the potential risks of water heaters, but how to avoid them as well.

Water Temperature Disasters to Avoid

Hot water is used indoors all the time: for showering, washing clothes, cooking, etc. However, some people think that by turning up the water heater they cut down on wait time for water to heat up. They also think this will keep them from running out of hot water quickly. However, turning up the hot water in your home is a health hazard. There is a high burn risk associated with this temperature increase.

According to The Burn Foundation, over 500,000 burn incidents occur annually. The majority of these burns come because the water heater is not set at a safe temperature. And most victims are young children and the elderly – both of whom are less likely to survive burn trauma than adolescents and adults. Preventing faucet burns requires one simple step: you should keep the water temperature below 140⁰ Fahrenheit.

While not all water heater burns result in death, there are still long-term effects of scalding. Some burns result in disfigurement and scarring. In addition this, sufferers often sustain tissue, nerve, and organ damage that persists throughout their lives. Surgeries and skin grafts may be necessary to combat the effects of a hot water burn. Life-changing burns can result in a matter of seconds. To prevent them in children and the elderly, bath water should be kept around 100⁰ Fahrenheit. Your hot water heater should be set at 120⁰.

Bacteria Buildup Problems to Prevent

Unfortunately, setting your hot water heater too low can result in health problems, as well. The risk with setting your water heater too low is that bacteria builds up in the tank. Bacteria that grows in cool water is harmful when it vaporizes – in showers, saunas, etc. – and is inhaled into your lungs.

Lung diseases such as Legionnaire's is commonly found in hot water heaters that aren't set at high temperatures. Legionnaire's causes pneumonia-like symptoms and can be fatal. Other common bacterium include molds that cause allergic and pneumonic symptoms. Such symptoms include irritated skin and eyes, congestion, and wheezing sounds when breathing. Mold also gets into pipes and spreads throughout your house.

To prevent bacteria buildup, you want the water cool enough to prevent hazardous burns, but warm enough to kill harmful bacteria. Temperatures that kill bacteria are around 140⁰. To maintain burn safety, however, it is recommended that you keep your hot water heater between 120⁰ and 130⁰ Fahrenheit. You can ensure that bacteria doesn't become a problem by periodically turning the water heater up to 140⁰ Fahrenheit and running the water for a few minutes (make sure everyone in the house knows what you are doing first). You should also schedule or perform regular cleaning to eliminate buildup.

Everyone has a hot water heater – but you are now among the owners who knows how to prevent health risks associated with them. Maintain your water heater at temperatures low enough to avoid traumatic burns, and high enough to kill harmful bacteria. Remember to clean your tank regularly to eliminate any thriving bacteria or call emergency plumbing services to do the job for you. Following these precautions gives the added bonuses of conserving energy and prolonging the life of your hot water heater.


14 January 2015