More than 125,000 children are injured by fires and burns at home each year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both fires and burns can sometimes be prevented by actions such as using smoke detectors and using safe water heater settings.
Using a checklist that identifies common safety hazards, researchers funded by the Population Dynamics Branch assessed the quality of housing for 100 low-income African American families. This measure of housing quality included items related to heating systems, locks, rodents or bugs, mold, and other damage. Researchers also evaluated the relationships between different aspects of housing quality and the use of injury prevention measures, including smoke detectors and safe water temperatures.
The researchers found that virtually all the families in the sample were living in housing that failed one or more items on the housing quality checklist. The most common problems were inadequate heat; peeling paint; mold, mildew or water damage; and rats. Each of these problems put the children at risk for injury or illness. Unsurprisingly, households with a greater number of other housing problems were also significantly less likely to have injury prevention measures in place, including smoke detectors and safe water settings. The lack of these preventive measures increases the children’s risk for fire and burn injury (PMID: 23147973).