Monday, August 30, 2010

Beware of safety

The ACC has churned out another safety alert, this time on the dangers of accidents in the home. 12 NZers a week die from accidents at home!, screams the NZ Harold. NatRad's Checkpoint covered the story with extra vim, including the sounds of Homers in Peril (falling in the shower, down stairs, off ladders, and plunging through glass chattels).

I would normally turn a deaf ear to such melodrama, maybe noting that the corporation should not be pronounced Eh-See-See, but Ack. A choking sound would be more on message, eh.

But the near the end of the NatRad story is some safety fairy warning against the dangers of child scalding, saying that tap water should be no hotter than 55 degrees Celsius. They neglect to mention that tap water should also not be cooler than 55 degrees either. This is why:
The optimal temperature for Legionella proliferation in water varies between 32°C and 35°C, but it can easily proliferate at temperatures of up to 45°C. Usually, there is no growth above 55°C, and a temperature of over 60°C has a bactericidal effect.

Ideally, I'd recommend a hot water cylinder thermostat be set at 60 degrees and boil any Legionnaire's Disease out. Knowing NZ's water pipes as I do, that would allow a 5 degree loss of heat on the way to the tap, which is fair go considering this wintry climate at the moment.

There is the worry that people might tune their cylinders too low, causing more hassles than the marginal risk of scalding. A one percent chance of scalding is not equal to a 100 percent chance of poisoning. Sometimes, the cost benefit analysis can get lost in the Safetykrieg.