The Dangers of Electric Blankets

Updated July 19, 2017

During cold nights, many people use electric blankets to keep warm. Turning down your home thermostat and regulating the thermostat on your electric blanket can help with heating costs. Electric blankets are comfortable and cheap, but there are safety concerns. It is important to know the risks involved with electric blankets before continuing to use or buying one.


Electric blankets are composed of heating wires or a heating unit that is inserted into the fabric of the blanket. When plugged in, the blanket will heat. The temperature is regulated by a thermostat, which is usually located on the wire that connects to the outlet. Most new electric blankets are low voltage and have a built-in shutoff mechanism that will prevent the blanket from overheating. But many older blankets do not have this and can be fire hazards.


Electromagnetic fields are invisible zones around all electrical devices and wiring, including electric blankets. Dr. Joseph Mercola, a "New York Times" best-selling author and health care professional, explains that electromagnetic fields are composed of two fields: an electric field and magnetic field. "The electric field is created by voltage, which determines the force with which the electricity is pushed through wires, and the magnetic field is created by the current, which is the amount of electricity being pushed," states Mercola. Magnetic fields are of concern since they are hard to block and cause health problems.


According to Mercola, "All electromagnetic energy falls somewhere on the electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from extremely low frequency (ELF) radiation to microwaves, X-rays and gamma rays." Some experts consider extremely low frequency fields, such as those generated by electric blankets, to be dangerous to one's health. Both Dr. Mercola and Dr. Jean-Jacques Dugoua, director of the Liberty Clinic, state that these electrical fields have been connected with childhood leukaemia, lymphoma and breast cancer in women. Yet Dugoua states that studies have shown that breast cancer is more likely to occur in African-American women ages 20 to 64.


Exactly why are electric blankets more dangerous than other appliances found in our home? According to Dr. Mercola, it is because the blankets are held so close to our bodies. If you sleep all night with an electric blanket, then the magnetic field is very close to you for a long period of time. Dr. Mercola explains that the magnetic field produced by electric blankets penetrates 6 to 7 inches into a person's body while they sleep. "This qualifies as chronic exposure," and is dangerous states Mercola.


It is no wonder that electric blankets have been linked to cancers and other health issues such as miscarriages. Let's not forget that fires and burns are also possible when using these blankets. People with nerve damage are also at risk since they may not be able to feel when the blanket is too hot. Long exposure to heat can also disrupt sleep cycles, according to Dr. Dugoua. There are alternatives that are much safer. Dr. Dugoua advises simply wearing more clothing while sleeping, using more blankets or thicker sheets and even wearing socks or hats to retain heat.

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About the Author

Heidi Maines has a master's degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She has published in the "Journal of Dermatology for Physician Assistants" and interned as a sports copy editor at "The Syracuse Post-Standard." Maines worked as a copywriter for an online publishing company called Virtucom Group, and was promoted to assistant editor, her current position.