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Microwaves Linked to Thousands of Burn Injuries in ChildrenA pediatrician from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is being credited with a new safety feature coming soon to microwaves that will help prevent burns in children: child-resistant doors. Kyran Quinlan began performing research with his colleagues when they noticed the high number of children treated at their hospital for burns not caused by house fires.

Quinlan and his team conducted research into burns caused by microwaves. The team found that thousands of children have suffered burns on their hands and faces when removing soup or other hot items from the common household appliance. The American Burn Association reports that 22% of burn patients across the country are children and most of them seek care for scalds instead of burns suffered in house fires.

Years of research prove the dangers associated with microwaves

Quinlan and a colleague, Dr. Larry Gottlieb, began researching years’ worth of data related to why children sought care for burns at their hospital. Dr. Gottlieb is a reconstructive plastic surgeon who treats patients who suffer from burns.

Gottlieb and Quinlan reviewed 11 years of records and discovered more than 7,000 cases involving children and microwaves. Some of the children were as young as 17 months old. The cases involved children being able to activate the microwave, open the door, and remove hot food from inside.

The doctors submitted their research to the U.S. Consumer Products and Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories, or UL. UL is the organization tasked with certifying products as safe for consumers to use. Despite this, manufacturers of microwaves informed the doctors that they hadn’t received any complaints about burns or that the products are defective.

“My child accidentally spilled hot soup on themselves,” James Dickerson, chief scientific officer at Consumer Reports, said. “It’s difficult to make these connections unless someone is able to take a story and escalate it. In this case, a number of physicians who see these cases every day were able to.”

How can manufacturers make microwaves safer?

A proposal was put forth in 2014 to make it safer for a microwave door to be opened, but it was voted down by a UL standards technical panel. Since then, Quinlan and another colleague, Dr. Marla Robinson, have joined the panel of 23 people.

The proposal came up again in 2018 and was approved by just one vote by the panel. (Only three microwave manufacturers supported the proposal.) The changes take effect in March 2023. All microwaves manufactured beginning in March 2023 will need to have a two-step process to open the doors.

Any manufacturer of a microwave that wishes to obtain the certification from UL will need to meet this new standard. The two-step process will need to include two separate, distinct motions to open the door.

“There are exceptions for microwaves designed to be installed over a stove — too high for young children to reach — and for a disengagement feature for situations where a disability makes the two-part motion too difficult,” Nancy Cowles, executive director for the nonprofit Kids in Danger, said.

Quinlan said he is happy with the changes being made to microwaves to prevent children from suffering scalds and burns, however, he noted that parents still need to be vigilant.

“It is going to take a little time before new models replace old ones, so parents of two-, three- and four-year-olds should know their kids are at risk if that microwave is within reach,” he said. “We think of stoves as getting hot, but we never think of microwaves as getting hot.”

Was your child burned by the microwave in your home? Do you believe that it is defective? If so, you should consult with the Chicago product liability attorneys at Gainsberg Law P.C. Call our office at 312-600-9585, or complete a contact form at your convenience to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.