The Health Hazards of Space Heaters

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When you've put on a second sweater and are wrapped up in a blanket and you still don't feel warm, a space heater in your room might seem like the answer to your problem. But when considering using one, keep in mind that a space heater can be hazardous to your health.

Space Heaters

  • In homes without central heating systems or with systems that cannot adequately maintain a comfortable temperature in all rooms, space heaters can provide supplementary heat. Older space heaters run on kerosene, while newer models are powered by natural gas or electricity. Space heaters require careful use and monitoring, or else they can cause situations that are directly and indirectly dangerous for you and your family.

Direct Health Hazards

  • Space heaters can be direct health hazards because if one malfunctions, it can produce dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides as waste products. These gasses deplete the amount of oxygen in your home. If too much of them build up, you could experience headaches or difficulty breathing or even suffocate. Space heaters can also burn your skin if you touch one directly.

Hazard From Home Damage

  • Space heaters cause indirect health hazards by damaging your home. A malfunctioning space heater can produce large amounts of water vapor. If it's not properly ventilated, this puts the room at risk for increased moisture levels and mold growth. Mold in your home can cause headaches and respiratory problems for you and your family members. If a hot space heater falls or is knocked over, it can set the floor or wall on fire. This puts you at risk for smoke inhalation and burns.

Considerations

  • Newer model space heaters have safety features designed to make them less hazardous to use. These features include automatic shutoff switches that activate if a unit tips over to prevent a fire. Others have oxygen sensors that shut them off and sound an alarm if oxygen levels in the air drop too low. If you use a space heater, make sure it is properly vented and that children and pets are kept well away from it.

References

  • "Gerontologic Nursing"; Sue E. Meiner; 2005
  • "Residential Energy"; John Krigger & Chris Dorsi; 2004
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