Infrared heaters have become more popular in recent years because they save energy and can heat a room without using a lot of electricity.
However, concerns have been raised about the potential cancer-causing effects of these heaters. In this article, we will explore whether or not infrared space heaters pose a cancer risk and what you can do to use them safely.
What is an infrared heater?
An infrared heater is a type of space heater that uses infrared radiation to generate heat. Unlike traditional heaters that heat the air in a room, infrared heaters directly heat the objects in the room, including people, furniture, and walls.
This type of heat is often described as “sun-like” because it mimics how the sun heats the earth.
How Does an Infrared Heater Work?
Infrared heaters send out infrared radiation, which is absorbed by objects in the room and turned into heat. The heat is then radiated back into the room, providing warmth. Electricity, propane, or natural gas can provide all power to infrared heaters.
Why Are Some People Worried About the Use of Infrared Heaters in Homes?
Despite their popularity, some people worry about the potential health risks of infrared heaters. The concerns revolve primarily around the emission of radiation, which some people believe could lead to cancer.
Should I Be Worried About Cancer If I Use an Infrared Heater?
No, there is no evidence to suggest that using an infrared heater increases your risk of cancer. Infrared heaters are considered safe and are commonly used in homes and businesses.
Who’s at Risk of Getting Cancer from an Infrared Heater?
No specific group of people is at a higher risk of getting cancer from using an infrared heater. However, it is essential to note that exposure to certain substances, such as asbestos, can increase your risk of developing cancer.
If you have concerns about the air quality in your home, it is a good idea to have it tested for pollutants and other harmful substances.
Do infrared heaters emit radiation?
Yes, infrared heaters emit radiation. However, it is essential to note that not all types of radiation are harmful. Infrared radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation, which is different from ionizing radiation (e.g., X-rays and gamma rays), which is known to be harmful.
What Does an Infrared Heater Emit That Could Lead to Cancer?
Infrared heaters emit non-ionizing radiation, which is not known to be cancer-causing. The type of radiation that infrared heaters emit is comparable to the radiation that the sun emits on a daily basis without causing harm to our health.
Are there any other concerns with these types of heaters?
Concerns about cancer aren’t the only thing that could go wrong when you use an infrared heater. These include:
- Carbon monoxide emissions: If you use a propane or natural gas-powered infrared heater, there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if the heater is not ventilated correctly.
- Air quality: Infrared heaters can stir up dust and other allergens, affecting your home’s air quality.
- Fire hazards: Like any space heater, there is a fire risk if the heater is not used correctly or placed too close to flammable materials.
Who Should Be Concerned About Using an Infrared Heater?
If you have concerns about the air quality in your home or if you are using a propane or natural gas-powered infrared heater, it is essential to take steps to use the heater safely. This includes:
- Assuring proper ventilation: If you use a propane or natural gas-powered infrared heater, ensure it is properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
- Keeping the heater away from flammable materials: Infrared heaters should be placed at least three feet away from anything that can catch fire, such as curtains, furniture, and bedding.
- Maintaining good air quality: Infrared heaters can stir up dust and other allergens, so keeping the area around the heater clean is essential.
- Using the heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions: Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, including how to turn the heater on and off and adjust the temperature.
Asbestos-Related Cancer Risk from Space Heater Use
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was commonly used in building materials until the 1980s. It is worth noting that some older space heaters, including some infrared models, may contain asbestos. When asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled, they can cause a type of cancer called mesothelioma.
If you have an older space heater, you should have a professional check it to see if it contains asbestos. If it does, it should be replaced with a newer, safer model.
Can a Kerosene Heater Make You Sick?
Another type of heater commonly utilized in households is the kerosene heater. Although this type of heating is unvented and uses kerosene as a fuel source, it is also portable and provides a good heat source during the cold months.
Yes, it can. Inhalation of the gas byproducts of the kerosene heater can trigger serious health problems, especially in individuals sensitive to the smell of kerosene and sulfur dioxide.
People who are sensitive and are exposed to a kerosene heater for a long time often have breathing problems like trouble breathing and asthma.
Continuous exposure to the fumes may lead to liver, kidney, or neurological damage and cause blood clots in the heart.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in the US has also reported that some people experience gastrointestinal discomfort after suffering from kerosene poisoning—mainly by attempting to drink it. Unfortunately, most of these individuals are small children who are prone to dipping their fingers in different liquids and licking them.
People who have been poisoned by kerosene often have symptoms like coughing, stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.
In the worst cases, they can even become unconscious. Since children are the most likely to be poisoned by ingesting kerosene, it is advisable to store your kerosene in labeled cans or tanks behind the doors of locked cabinets.
Health Risks Of Using a Kerosene Heater?
Kerosene heaters produce a lot of heat. Unlike ceramic heaters, which are protected by a rigid plastic casing that serves as a buffer zone between curious hands and the internal plates of the radiator, a kerosene heater offers no such protection.
Any fingers or paws that brush against the heater will be rewarded with an awful burn. Thus, it is recommended that the heater be kept isolated from small children and any of your four-legged furry friends.
Since all kerosene heaters don’t have vents, when the gas inside the heater burns, it releases dangerous chemicals into the air. When a heater is placed inside a home and used without rest, the number of gas byproducts builds up, thus elevating air toxicity.
As was already said, a kerosene heater gives off carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, which are both harmful gases.
Carbon monoxide has no smell and can be breathed in without being noticed, but sulfur dioxide smells like rotting eggs, which makes it easy to find.
If you breathe in these gases for a long time, you might feel like you’re going to pass out, get sick, feel dizzy, or throw up, which could mean you need to go to the hospital’s emergency room. In severe circumstances, prolonged inhalation of these two gases can prove fatal.
Health Hazards Possessed By Gas Heaters
One of the leading gases emitted by gas heaters is nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide usually has a rusty red color and a very sharp, pungent odor that can irritate the insides of your nose.
When inhaled in high concentrations for a long time, it can cause coughing and trouble breathing, among other things.
If you keep breathing it in, you could even have an asthma attack, have your Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) symptoms get worse or even die. Another two gas byproducts to watch out for are carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Both of these gases can cause poisoning in their respective ways, and you would require emergency medical attention at the hospital if you found yourself breathless, weak, nauseous, or even unconscious.
This, in turn, will pose a severe health risk, especially for individuals who are particularly sensitive to the smell of kerosene.
How Do I Choose a “Safe” Space Heater?
The selection process is as crucial as owning and maintaining a space heater.
Here are some things you need to watch out for when you hit the store to handpick your space heater:
Purchase space heaters with the United Laboratories (UL) mark stamped on them and a Quality Control (QC) sticker for added reassurance. This means that the heater is less likely to be defective and works perfectly fine.
Look for space heaters that automatically shut off when they overheat or are tipped over. Some space heaters have built-in safety features that stop the heater from working right away if it falls or if its core temperature goes above the maximum value that the manufacturer has set.
Some space heaters have thermal fuses that disconnect the device from the power source when the radiator gets too much current.
This is very helpful when a storm knocks out the power, and a surge of electricity flows through the heater all at once.
The heater’s sensor trips and the fuses melt. This stops the heater from short-circuiting further and puts anyone who touches the outside casing at risk of getting an electric shock.
Always select space heaters that have a low center of gravity. Do not be swayed by fancily shaped heaters that are both tall and light.
Instead, purchase a heater based on models emphasizing a weighted base or ones designed with a shorter stature and broader support.
A more comprehensive, weighted base contributes to a lower center of gravity. This means the chances of the space heater tipping over or being accidentally knocked over are far lesser than with a model with a slim, lighter design.
How to Use an Infrared Heater Safely
Most people think that infrared heaters are safe to use as long as they are used the right way. Here are some tips for using an infrared heater safely:
- Choose a high-quality model: Look for an infrared heater with safety features such as tip-over protection, overheat protection, and a safety switch that automatically turns off the heater if it becomes too hot.
- Use the heater in a well-ventilated area. If you use a propane or natural gas-powered heater, ensure it is properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
- Keep the area around the heater clear: Infrared heaters should be placed at least three feet away from anything that can catch fire, such as curtains, furniture, and bedding.
- Clean the heater regularly: Infrared heaters can stir up dust and other allergens, so keeping the area around the heater clean is essential.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions: Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for use, including how to turn the heater on and off and adjust the temperature.
In conclusion, no evidence suggests that infrared heaters cause cancer. However, using these heaters safely and following the manufacturer’s instructions is essential.
If you have concerns about the air quality in your home or if you are using a propane or natural gas-powered infrared heater, it is crucial to take steps to use the heater safely and to have your home tested for pollutants and other harmful substances.
These precautions allow you to enjoy an infrared heater’s warmth and energy efficiency without worrying about potential health risks.
Electric space heaters do not produce carbon monoxide as they do not burn any sort of fuel.
Glad to know that electric heaters do not cause carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is the result of an incomplete combustion reaction. Combustion being the reaction that turns oxygen and fuel into carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide is not created by electrical heating elements as they do not create combustion