Electric blankets otherwise known as heating blankets are quite the comfort to have in cold weather. The difference between a regular sheet and an electric heating blanket is that the large electric blanket contains integrated electrical heating wires which warms up when it is plugged in.
Electric blankets are generally of two types: Under blankets which are also called heating pads are usually placed directly on the mattress and beneath the bedsheets, & over blankets which are used like regular blankets you can cozy up under.
Electric blankets are quite the rave in cold climes as they are quite comfortable, cost relatively less as opposed to turning up the temperature on a central heating system and can be put away in the warmer months without taking up much space. There are however quite a lot of reservations concerning its use, risk of injury, its effect on the health and general well-being of its users and other dangers inherent in the use of electric appliances. These concerns are generally of three forms: Fire hazard, Overheating and burns, and cancer. We’ll be addressing these concerns and indicate safety measures that could be taken where possible to avoid them.
As with the usage of most electric appliances and electricity generally, there is a significant risk of fire. All it takes is an interaction between a wire and another wire or some other object it has no business being in contact with to create a spark. Considering that a large electric blanket is a bunch of wires surrounded by fabric, the risk is considerably higher.
Apart from the wires, another possible culprit for fires started by a large electric blanket is the overheating of a specific part of the blanket for an extended period. This could cause the blanket itself or any other fabric in contact with it to combust.
- Carefully read and strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions which usually comes with each large electric blanket.
- Before using a large electric blanket for the first time, check to ensure it has undergone the necessary checks and tests as well as that it has been certified safe by the relevant organizations.
- Avoid any action that could crimp or cause stress on the cord or wires; avoid tightly folding the blanket and the power cord; lastly, lastly, keep the power cord and wires away from sources of friction and any other thing that could cause its insulation to be broken or worn.
- Inspect the blanket for wear and tear before each use, and where such is discovered, use of such a blanket should be discontinued immediately.
- Older blankets should be replaced with new ones regularly.
- Electric blankets should be washed/cleaned strictly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and a wet blanket should not be plugged in under any circumstance.
Overheating and Burns
Being as most older models of electric blankets do not have an automatic shut off mechanism, there is a prevalent risk of such electric blankets reaching unsafe temperatures which could result in a fire or burn the user. Overheating could also happen as a result of parts of the blanket folding over itself.
Overheating is also possible in electric blankets with thermostats as it is possible for the thermostat to adjust the blanket’s heating based on temperature readings from a cooler part of the bed and the room.
To guard against burns from overheating, the following tips should be of help:
- Some manufacturers recommend that the large electric blanket should be used to warm up the bed and turned off before sleeping to eliminate the risk of burns. Such recommendation where made is best adhered to.
- While in use, the electric blanket should be spread out as flat as possible. Folds could potentially increase the risk of overheating the part of the blanket that is folded.
- Electric blankets should not be used by infants, the elderly, those suffering an incapacitating infirmity or any sickness which reduces the ability to feel, those on medications that induce drowsiness or any intoxicated individual. This is because these individuals may not be able to notice the climbing temperature of their blanket, or where they can notice it, they may not be capable of moving away from the danger on their own.
There have been quite some speculations that electric blankets or more specifically the electromagnetic fields (EMF) generated by electrical blankets can cause cancer or other adverse health effects. Electric blankets typically produce extremely low frequency (ELF) fields.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no definite proof of a link between the use of electric blankets. Whatever evidence that exists supporting this link is at best controversial due to the low exposure levels posed by electric blankets. It thus follows that whatever risk exists is quite low if present at all.
In conclusion, amidst the comfort and satisfaction that could be derived from electric blankets is also a prevalent danger inherent in its misuse. Where proper care has been taken, however, a large electric blanket is relatively safe for use by healthy adults. They however not recommended for pregnant women due to the increased risks.