The issue: Are voluntary standards enough?
Those bright-burning yule logs reminded us of cause for modest celebration this holiday season: new efforts to protect children from blistering-hot gas fireplaces.
More than 2,000 children age 5 and younger were injured over a recent 10-year period after coming into contact with gas fireplaces, Consumer Reports magazine has noted, citing an independent safety consultant. Some suffered second- and even third-degree burns.
Industry standards for gas fireplaces permit ceramic glass to reach 1,328 degrees Farenheit; other glass fronts can hit 446 degrees or higher.
Manufacturers of fireplace equipment, feeling the heat of potential regulatory action and more lawsuits, this fall adopted voluntary guidelines to outfit every new gas fireplace with a protective mesh screen — but not until 2015.
Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America, both interest groups, in 2011 petitioned the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop a mandatory safety standard for gas fireplaces.
With the industry’s recent measure, the safety commission will hold off on regulatory action, reported FairWarning, a nonprofit news organization that serves as a public watchdog on health and safety issues.
The head of the nonprofit Burn Prevention Network, Dan Dillard, told FairWarning he thought the federal estimate of 200 child burn cases a year was too low, and he reiterated the call for mandatory standards.
Specifications for these new screens are due out soon from the American National Standards Institute.
Meanwhile, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, an industry trade group, suggests barriers such as child safety gates and attachable screens. And we add the importance of adult vigilance and of teaching youngsters the words “hot” and “no”— before it’s too late.