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Are Car Seat Warmers Too Hot for Your Own Good?

An attorney litigating the issue and a burn doctor say some car seat warmers pose unnecessary risks to certain groups of people, including individuals with paralysis and other sensory issues, according to USA Today.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it would look into the matter after Sean Kane, a safety advocate, and Dr. David Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospital for Children in Northern California, asked the agency to do so. Kane says he knows of dozens of burn victims, and Johnson Clifton Larson & Schaller, an Oregon law firm, is litigating 25 cases involving at least 150 people who have been burned by heated car seats. This also comes after a USA Today story that showed dozens of people with paralysis and other sensory issues had been severely burned by their seat heaters.

The mounting evidence has prompted the NHTSA investigation, which will look into how widespread the problem is and whether if it poses “an unreasonable risk to safety,” according to USA Today. NHTSA does point out that Kane doesn’t quantify the problem.

Greenhalgh say the maximum temperature a seat should ever reach is 105 degrees. Seats that go beyond this temperature — say 120 degrees — can inflict third-degree burns on their victims in as little as 10 minutes.

Kane and Greenhalgh would like to see maximum temperature rules or timers that automatically turn off the heated seats over time. Some models already do so.

While specific vehicles weren’t called out, USA Today does highlight a case where a victim was severely burned by his 2005 Chevrolet Silverado. GM has started putting safety warnings about the heaters in all its owner’s manuals, starting with the 2011 model year.

NHTSA to look into burns from car seat heaters (USA Today)