Thursday 25 November 2004

Statist idiocy.

Here's a nice little story in The Scotsman:

A TEENAGER who suffered permanent facial disfigurement from scalding hot bath water when he was a baby yesterday went to the Scottish Parliament to campaign for greater protection for the public.

Darren Ferguson, 17, from Stenhousemuir, appeared before Holyrood’s public petitions committee to call for regulations to ensure thermostats - which prevent tap water reaching scalding point - be installed in new buildings and renovated properties from May next year.

Mr Ferguson, who has undergone 59 major operations, numerous minor operations and laser surgery since being scalded on the face and chest by bath water when he was just six-months-old, said the thermostatic device cost just £80, but could save lives and prevent suffering.

He told the committee: "How can anyone say that years of mental and physical pain, a lifetime of disfigurement and the huge costs to the National Health Service are not worth an investment of £80 to save children and families in the future having to endure all that I and my family have had to suffer?"

Sounds sensible enough, doesn't it? Of course, right-wing bastards like me might make some preposterous claim about how it's the responsibility of parents not to pour boiling water onto their children, not the responsibility of the government to ensure we all live in a giant padded bubble, or we might point out the statistical fallacy in comparing all the costs to the NHS of treating every single scald victim to the cost of the device (but not of fitting it) required to prevent scalds in just one household, but everyone knows our real agenda is just to Oppress The Poor.

But, quite apart from the rights and wrongs of ever-greater state intrusion into our lives, there is another problem:

  • Destroying the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease requires raising the temperature of water to at least 140°F (60°C).
  • But, at the temperature 140°F (60°C), water can cause third-degree burns in children in one second and adults in five seconds.

When I worked at British Gas Services, we were taught a very simple rule about central heating systems: if the water from the hot water tap doesn't burn you, it's dangerously cold.

Unfortunately, The Scotsman's article is a bit vague about this "thermostatic device", so we don't know whether they're talking about a thermostatic mixing valve, which is a genuine solution to the problem, or just any old thermostat. Thing is, I suspect the Scottish Executive don't know either. I wonder how much of our money they'll spend on finding out?


Andy said...

Last time I counted, there was an infinite number of ways of killing yourself by crass stupidity, but only a finite number of them had specific laws against them. I fear this sort of thing is going to go on forever.

By the way, since you're obviously an expert on Legionaires' disease, why isn't the water from the cold tap dangerously cold?

Squander Two said...

Heh. I am definitely no expert, but I do know the answer to that question.

Cold water comes straight from the water main, which is generally safe. (Water companies have various ways of killing legionella, and mains water comes straight to your house fresh from being disinfected.) Hot water sits around in a tank in your house getting heated up, and that tank never empties, which makes it a perfect breeding ground for bacteria unless it's kept at a high enough temperature. If you have a combination boiler, the hot water is heated up straight from the mains instead of in a tank, so legionnaire's isn't a danger, which is why it's not a health risk that combination boilers deliver such uselessly fucking tepid water.

Blognor Regis said...

I'm no gas man but I know that our combi boiler gets the water too hot to touch in almost no time.

Stephen West said...

I likewise have no problem with the temperature of the hot water from my combi boiler. The consistency of the delivery thereof, on the other hand, leaves an awful lot on the "to be desired" side of the ledger.

Miguel said...

This might sound familiar...

All over Britain in 1992, bakers, butchers, fishmongers, cooks and other 'food handlers' are being told that the use of wood is unhygienic and 'against regulations' - to be specific, Regulation 7 of the Food Hygiene (General) Regulations 1970. Millions of wooden spoons, chopping boards, rolling pins, shelves, brooms and other kitchen utensils have to be thrown away, while hundreds of millions of pounds have to be spent on the much more expensive plastic and metal alternatives favoured by the EHOs.

All this obsession with the supposedly unhygienic nature of wood dates back to a study carried out in 1971 by Dr Richard Gilbert, who in 1992 is the head of the Public Health Laboratory Service food hygiene laboratory. He claims that plastic is easier to clean and preferable in every way, although this is often disputed by other experts, to no avail. But early in 1993, a new study is published in America by two scientists at the University of Wisconsin which seems to confirm that it is in fact wood which is much more hygienic, because it naturally has bactericidal properties, while plastic soon scores and builds up a coating of slime.

(Source: The Mad Officials, by Christopher Booker and Richard North)