There is nothing like the comforting warmth of an electric blanket on a cold winter night. An electric blanket works on the fundamental concept of energy conversion, by converting electric energy into heat energy. It generates heat when electric current passes through an insulated heating, keeping its occupant warm on blustery winter days. However, as with all electric appliances, electric blankets are associated with numerous health and safety hazards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that electromagnetic magnetic fields, such as those generated by electric blankets, are a "reason for concern" and it "advises prudent avoidance."
Excessive Exposure to Magnetic Fields
According to a 1997 report published by the National Research Council (U.S.) Committee on the possible effects of electromagnetic fields on biologic systems, electric blankets expose all areas of the body to magnetic field exposure. These harmful radiations can easily penetrate the skin and damage internal organs, cause heart problems, cataracts, headaches, fatigue, nausea, stress, forgetfulness and other health defects.
Increased Risk of Miscarriages and Birth Defects
Electric blankets generate continuous low-voltage electromagnetic fields, leaving their occupants vulnerable to their effects. According to John Ashton and Ronald S. Laura in the book "Perils of Progress: The Health and Environment Hazards of Modern Technology," electric blankets increase the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women.
According to Niels H. Lauersen and Colette Bouchéz in the book "Getting Pregnant: What you Need to Know Right Now," babies that are conceived under electric blankets are more vulnerable to birth defects, slow growth rates and low birthweights.
Precautions that effectively minimise these risks include replacing electric blankets with equally warm woollen duvets and switching off electric blankets and unplugging them from wall sockets before getting into bed, using them instead to heat the bed prior to retiring.
The use of electric blankets is linked with various types of cancers. According to Joseph C. Arcos, Mary F. Argus and Yin-Tak Woo in the book "Chemical Induction of Cancer: Modulation and Combination Effects," electric blankets increase the risk of brain cancer and tumours, leukaemia and testicular cancer. However, the relationship between electric blankets and cancers is inconsistent and prone to controversy. While many reports and studies reveal the obvious link between brain tumours, leukaemia and electric blankets, others negate the relationship and state that exposure to electromagnetic fields generated by electric blankets is unlikely to cause cancer. Though electromagnetic fields may not directly cause cancer, they may accelerate the growth of cancerous cells and quicken their development.
- EPA: Questions and Answers about Electric and Magnetic Fields
- "Chemical Induction of Cancer: Modulation and Combination Effects;" Joseph C. Arcos, Mary F. Argus and Yin-Tak Woo; 1995
- "Perils of Progress: The Health and Environment Hazards of Modern Technology;" John Ashton and Ronald S. Laura; 1999
- National Research Council (U.S.) Committee on the Possible Effects of Electromagnetic Fields on Biologic Systems: Possible Health Effects of Exposure to Residential Electric and Magnetic Fields
- Government of Ireland: Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources: Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields