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Measuring Severe Burn Rates for Surfaces Found at Home and Work

An interesting, though very academic, paper was published recently about the ways that investigators can measure how quickly skin can receive painful second-degree burns as well as far more damaging third-degree burns from coming in contact different surfaces. At the top of the list of fast skin-burning surfaces was aluminum, then steel, then brass, and then concrete (which most people might not have thought of). Actually, make sure you keep that last one in mind come the summertime, when people walk around outside in bare feet more often, and children play outside more often on such a surface.

Anyway, the research paper talked about a tool called a thermesthesiometer, which can be placed against the top or side of different appliances and other objects to see how quickly skin can burn on that surface. This is a test that a personal-injury attorney could ask for if a client received third-degree burns and wanted to investigate if another party was liable for the subsequent burn injury the victim received.

On a larger scale, it is critical that people know which surfaces in their homes, work sites, and other places can get hot and burn the epidermis, or outer layer of skin. Why? Because the epidermis is just .08 of a millimeter thick, so it can be burned away in just a few seconds on the types of surfaces listed above. And once that outer layer is burned away, you reach the dermis–the layer that holds the blood vessels and nerve endings. When the epidermis is burned away to the point that the dermis gets damaged, that is the classic definition of a third-degree burn.

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