A prospective study was designed to evaluate the effects of education on the incidence of pediatric scald burns. Demographic data from our Trauma Registry identified the Zip code area of greatest risk. Eighty of 121 families with children in a large rental property were chosen randomly for the education program. Twenty of these families also had an anti-scald device installed in the bathtub faucet; all had two or more children under age 5 years. Families were surveyed before and after intervention. Safety knowledge improved post-education as judged by correct survey responses. Although 90% of the families had water heaters set at "warm" (< or = 120 degrees F), the actual temperature at the tap was above 130 degrees F in 71%. The anti-scald devices did work, but at 9 months all but one had been removed because of sediment buildup, which prevented water flow. In the year of the study, the number of scald burns from the target Zip code area decreased from 15 to 12. This was a pilot project for programs that can test public response to general safety education. An anti-scald device in conjunction with education works well in theory, but a better device needs to be engineered. In view of discrepancies between water heater settings and tap water temperature, housing authorities could play a vital role in implementing safety measures.