Glass Front Fireplace Safety – Additional Information

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The below article will be published in the January 2015 edition AAPNews.

Safety screens a must for glass-fronted gas fireplaces

by Mike Gittelman, M.D., FAAP, and Lucy Wibbenmeyer, M.D.

Picture a snowy, wintery evening. Your family is relaxing by the fireplace, when suddenly your toddler screams aloud in pain. Who would have thought that the glass on the gas fireplace would have gotten so hot?

Gas fireplaces are an increasingly popular decorative addition in homes across the country. Easy-to-use and inexpensive, they require less maintenance than their wood-burning counterparts. But, unlike traditional wood-burning fireplaces, glass-fronted fireplaces lack the signs that many young children associate with a hot fire. The flame is behind a panel of glass that can reach temperatures as high as 1,328 degrees Fahrenheit. This puts children at a higher risk of being severely burned.

In fact, according to new research, 402 children have been seen in burn centers for their injuries in the past 5 years alone (80 per year) after coming into contact with glass-fronted gas fireplaces. These injuries led to an estimated 17,000 annual medical visits, 360 emergency room visits and 33 hospital admissions for burns per year. Hands, most often the palm, made up 95% of these burns, and about 3%-11% of hand burns needed surgery.1-4

To prevent these burns, the standards were revised. The new standards which take effect Jan. 1 requrie all new gas burning fireplaces to be sold with a screen safety barrier to be attached upon installation of the fireplace. Additional Information about burn risks is now provided in packaging as well. Although existing fireplaces are not affected, the rule helps prevent children from being injured from newer gas-burning fireplaces.

Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Burn Association (ABA) urge parents who own a glass-fronted gas fireplace to follow safety measures:

  • Purchase and install a protective, heat-resistant fireplace safety screen to use as a barrier on gas-burning fireplaces. The screen should be able to support the weight of the child.
  • Be aware that toddlers and young children are at significant risk of being burned by the hot glass front if the fireplace is burning and for at least 30 minutes after the fire is out.
  • Make sure supervision and awareness continues for gas fireplaces at resorts or when visiting another home.
  • Consider not using the fireplace around young children.
  • If your child is burned, cool the area with water, apply moist clean bandages and seek medical attention (visit HealthyChildren: http://bit.ly/1Ch5EDw).

Dr. Gittelman is a member of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence & Poison Prevention and Dr. Wibbenmeyer is a member of the ABA.

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