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Old 03-14-2011, 10:02 AM   #1
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Default NHTSA to look into burns from car seat heaters

USA TODAY reported last month that dozens of people with paralysis and other sensory issues have been severely burned by car seat heaters. Safety advocate Sean Kane and burn doctor David Greenhalgh asked NHTSA on Feb. 22 to reconsider how it decides a vehicle has a defect because seat heaters "that exceed human tolerance" are unsafe.
Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospital for Children in Northern California, says 105 degrees is the maximum temperature a seat should ever reach.

Greenhalgh, co-author of a 2003 study on the issue, has treated a patient who received third-degree burns after 20 minutes in a car seat where the heater reached 120 degrees in one spot. Medical literature shows these burns can occur within 10 minutes at 120 degrees.
NHTSA said in a statement that although Kane didn't quantify the problem, it would do an analysis of its own data to "determine what actions, if any, are needed to address this issue."

Kane, of Safety Research & Strategies, is still combing through burn incidents and would say only that he knows of "dozens." But an Oregon law firm, Johnson Clifton Larson & Schaller, said Wednesday that it has been involved with about 25 cases of burns from seat heaters and knows of at least 150 people burned this way.

Kane and Greenhalgh have also asked the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to urge members to disconnect seat heaters for those with lower-body sensory deficits, set a maximum temperature for heaters and install timers that automatically turn them off, as some automakers already do. Alliance spokesman Wade Newton says it is discussing its response with members.

Susan Heygood, a Fort Worth lawyer, says her client, Clayton Ford, was severely burned in a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado after he turned on the seat heater by mistake while operating the window. Ford, a paraplegic, sat in the car for two and a half hours with the heater on high.

General Motors, Chevrolet's parent company, says it started to put seat-heater warnings in 2010 model year vehicles' owners manuals and has them in the manuals for all 2011 models with seat heaters.
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