The Dangers of Home Oxygen and Smoking
Home oxygen equipment can save lives, and allow patients with breathing problems to stay in their homes and lead fuller lives. However, home oxygen can also be extremely dangerous.
Home oxygen is pure O2, a fuel necessary for a fire to burn. When exposed to an open flame or spark, pure oxygen can ignite, and if a fire is already burning around home oxygen, a bottle can suddenly and violently explode or release O2, giving the fire more fuel and making the fire far larger and more dangerous.
A National Fire Prevention Association study reports that from 2003 to 2006, 1,190 people were burned per year in the U.S. from fires associated with home medical oxygen, and 73 percent of those fires were caused by smoking, with 89 percent of victims suffering facial burns.
Fire Safety Tips for Home Medical Oxygen Users
The use of home oxygen systems has increased over the past decade. It’s important for people to practice fire safe behaviors when oxygen is in use. Oxygen itself does not burn but a fire needs oxygen to start and to keep burning. When more oxygen is in the air, the fire will burn hotter and faster. Smoking should not be allowed in a home where oxygen is used. Even if oxygen is not being used, it may have saturated the home including clothing, curtains, furniture, bedding, hair, and anything in the area.
• Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used.
• Post “no smoking” signs in and outside of the home to remind
residents and guests not to smoke.
• If oxygen is used in the home, the amount of oxygen in the air,
furniture, clothing, hair, and bedding goes up, making it easier for
a fire to start and spread. This means that there is a higher risk of
both fires and burns.
• Never use an open flame, such as candles, matches, wood stoves,
and sparking toys, when oxygen is in use.
• People who may have difficulty escaping a fire should have a
phone near their bed or chair.
• Make sure that the home has smoke alarms. Test them at least
• Have a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room
and an outside meeting place.
• Practice the plan at least twice a year.
Fire Chief - Thomas E Higgins
289 Main Street, Bangor, ME 04401
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