Child’s scalding death prompts push for water heater regulations

Illinois lawmakers want further controls on residential water heaters after hearing a mother’s heart-wrenching story of loss.

Jennifer King shared the story of how her then-18-month-old daughter Mikayla suffered burns all over her body from falling into a bathtub filled with scalding water for only a few seconds.

“Sheets of skin were falling off of her legs. The skin looked like a sock hanging from her foot,” she told the Senate Public Health Committee. “Mikayla died at 6 p.m. April 18, 2010.”

King is the force behind a proposed law that would require manufacturers to supply or attach a temperature regulating valve to tanks used in homes in Illinois.

The family was awarded $10.7 million in a Cook County lawsuit after Mikayla’s death. Industry experts testified in the case brought by King’s husband that they were aware tap-based scaldings happen about 2,000 times per year.

While she expressed sympathy for what happened to Mikayla, Allison Maginot, government relations manager with the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute said the devices that would be mandated don’t necessarily keep water temperatures low.

“If a manufacturer is required to supply a mixing valve with every single unit, it’s very likely that when the plumber goes to install that water heater, it will not be the correct mixing valve,” she said.

Maginot described a phenomenon called “stacking” where a manufacturer cannot regulate the exact temperature of a water heater, varying up to 30 degrees.

She said her organization would work with lawmakers to enact reforms that would protect against scalding.

Mixing valves come in a variety of configurations, costing anywhere from $35 to more than $1,000 online.

The bill passed unanimously and needs a Senate floor vote before it could be considered by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

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May 10, 2019 at 03:56PM

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