A nation wide blitz on hot water bottles has resulted in more than 250,000 being recalled across Australia.
"The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and state and territory consumer regulators have randomly checked 30 brands – and on preliminary tests more than half have failed mandatory safety standards," ACCC deputy chairman, Peter Kell, said.
"We tested 30 brands of hot water bottles and 18 did not comply with the standard – which requires acceptable bottle thickness and stringent quality levels relating to leakage, seam strength and pressure," he said.
The blitz followed the rise in severe burns resulting from hot water bottles splitting, leaking or bursting.
"A surprisingly high number of people have been scalded – some very seriously – because of faulty hot water bottles or accidents involving hot water bottles," Mr Kell said.
In NSW, 111 people were treated at a severe burns unit for hot water bottle scalds from January 1, 2006 to August 18 this year. Nearly a third required skin grafts. In Victoria, more than 70 burns were treated over the same time.
Newcastle's Peta-Marie Penfold is one of the recent victims suffering severe burns two months ago, when she rested with a hot water bottle on her lap – and she still suffers.
Ms Penfold, 38, suffered full thickness burns from her faulty hot water bottle and required skin grafts.
"I'm in pain every day and I still take painkillers," she said. "I was scalded on my lower tummy and upper thigh and the hospital tells me it will take 18 months to two years for full recovery. I never thought this could happen to me."
Mr Kell hopes that the blitz will reduce the number of such severe burns cases in the future.
The following brands have been voluntarily withdrawn from sale or have been removed from store shelves by the ACCC, and the State and Territory consumer regulators:
- 'Cuddly' hot water bottles, imported and supplied by Evolve Lifewares Pty Ltd and trading as Wardellian, sold nationally by Big W and Mitre 10 stores. Investigators found problems with the thickness of the walls and the strength of the rubber and seams. Serious burns could result from the risk of splitting, bursting and leaking associated with these defects.
- 'Dr Hot' water bottles, imported and supplied by Sales Net Distribution Pty Ltd, sold nationally by Woolworths' supermarkets. Investigators had concerns about the screw stopper, which could lead to scald injuries.
- Home Master Brand 2 litre hot water bottle were supplied by P.J. Sas Trading Pty NSW investigators found that the hot water bottle failed strength of seam test, thickness test and the size of aperture (opening) requirements.
- TRS Trading Group Pty Ltd hot water bottle sold in 'The Reject Shop' stores throughout Australia failed the strength of seam test and the thickness test.
H1304 2 litre hot water bottle supplied by New Global International Pty Ltd in NSW failed the strength of seam test, the thickness test and the size of aperture requirements.
- A Stillwater hot water bottle sold in NSW failed the thickness test and the size of aperture requirements.
Mr Kell said consumers who had bought any of these brands should immediately stop using the product and return it to the store for a full refund.
"The ACCC urges all consumers purchasing hot water bottles to retain their receipts and packaging. If you have been injured by a hot water bottle or want to provide information to the ACCC please call 1300 302 502.
"Also, as the winter season is behind us, it is an excellent time for everyone to take a good look at their hot water bottles at home. Most hot water bottles have a small daisy wheel imprinted at the bottom of the bottle with the year of manufacture inside it. If the number in the wheel shows that it's older than 2008 then get rid of it.
"Generally as good practice, you should not use your hot water bottle for more than one winter season or if it is showing signs of wear and tear," he said.
Mr Kell also warned suppliers to clean up their act.
"These recalls are a further warning for all hot water bottle suppliers, particularly importers, to ensure their merchandise is safe and meets the mandatory product safety standard designed to protect all Australians," he said.
The ACCC and the state and territory consumer regulators are taking action on all the failing brands and holding talks with their suppliers.
Further tests are also being undertaken.
Mr Brent Rebecca, Media, (02) 6243 1317 or 0408 995 408
Release # NR 218/09
Infocentre 1300 302 502