Four hundred and fifty-nine fatal tapwater scald burn injuries reported to the Injury Information Clearinghouse of the Consumer Product Safety Commission from 1979 to 1986 were studied. Data concerning the 459 deaths were abstracted from the death certificate file maintained by the Clearing house. Risk estimates were derived, using the resident population of the USA as of 1 July 1982 as the midpoint population estimate. Over half the deaths occurred in those over 75 years of age, while about one-fifth of the deaths occurred in children younger than 5 years of age. The crude mortality rate was approximately two deaths per million population over the 8-year period studied. In all age groups, black-skinned people experienced an approximate three-fold increase in risk (RR = 3.23, 95% CI: 2.87, 3.63). Among the elderly, males experienced an approximately 50 per cent increase in risk (RR = 1.47, 95% CI: 1.26, 1.72). One of every eight fatal injuries was sustained in a public building or residential institution. Implications of the current findings in terms of targetted prevention efforts are discussed.