Children’s Hospital of Michigan’s Burn Center treats approximately three pediatric contact burns annually related to clothes irons, which involve the face, torso, and extremities. These burns leave well-demarcated burn patterns, including the steam holes from the heat plate of the iron. The average age of these children is 15 months. The history given by the parent is that the child pulled the cord of an iron that was on an ironing board or high shelf. It seemed unlikely to the investigators that a falling iron would produce such demarcated burns. A free-standing shelf unit was built with shelf heights of 36, 60, and 72 inches (the height of an ironing board and shelves at home). Three irons of different weights were put in three different positions on each shelf, with the cord dangling. A doll the approximate size of a 15-month old was positioned in front of the shelf. The dangling cord was pulled, and the falling iron was videotaped. The video was edited in freeze frame at the point at which the iron hit the doll. Two hundred seventy falls were recorded. The flat heat plate of the iron never hit the doll. The linear edge of the heat plate hit the doll on only seven falls. This study demonstrates that it is very unlikely for the flat heat plate of a falling iron to contact a toddler-sized doll. Children who allegedly sustain demarcated burns in this manner need to be investigated for nonaccidental injury.
From the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit.
Address correspondence to David Allasio, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Social Work Department, 3901 Beaubien Blvd., Detroit, Michigan 48201.