Death Fan

Topics: Carbon dioxide, South Korea, Thermoregulation Pages: 5 (1509 words) Published: April 15, 2013
Fan death is a widely held belief in South Korea that an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those sleeping inside. All fans sold in South Korea come with an automatic timer that turns the fan off after a certain number of minutes.[1]

Origins of belief
The genesis of this misconception is unclear, but fears about electric fans date almost to their introduction in Korea, with stories dating to the 1920s and 1930s warning of the risks of nausea, asphyxiation, and facial paralysis from this "new technology".[2][3] Some have speculated that the South Korean government created or perpetuated the myth as propaganda in order to curb the energy consumption of Korean households during the 1970s energy crisis.[2] This period was marked by short supply and high prices of oil, and coincided with the rule of President Park Chung-hee, who listed a self-reliant economy and modernization as his top goals, as announced in his Five Year Economic Development Plan.[4] This theory is based on the fact that reports of fan death first appeared in the 1970s.[citation needed]

Proposed causes

Electric fans sold in Korea are equipped with a "timer knob" switch, which turns them off after a set number of minutes. This is perceived as a life-saving function, particularly essential for bed-time use. There are several purported explanations for the precise mechanism which might result in death. [edit]"Fans cause hypothermia"

Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature caused by inadequate thermoregulation in humans. As the metabolism slows down at night, one becomes more sensitive to temperature, and thus supposedly more prone to hypothermia. People who believe in this theory think that a fan operating in a closed room all night will lower the temperature of the room to the point of causing hypothermia.[5] Empirical measurements show, however, that the fan does not cause the room temperature to drop; if anything, it should rise slightly because of friction and the heat output of the fan motor, but even this is negligible. Fans actually lower body temperature by increasing the convection around a person's body so that heat flows into the air more easily, and by the latent heat of vaporization as perspiration evaporates from the body. However, there is no scientific study which indicates that this effect would be sufficient to cause hypothermia unless the temperature were already very low.

"Fans cause asphyxiation"
It is alleged that fans may cause asphyxiation in humans due to oxygen displacement and carbon dioxide intoxication.[5][6][7][8] In the process of human respiration, inhaled fresh air is exhaled with a lower concentration of oxygen gas (O2), and higher concentration of carbon dioxide gas (CO2), causing a gradual reduction of O2 and buildup of CO2 in a completely unventilated room.[9]Other indoor sources of carbon dioxide include burning fossil fuels, such as a gas-fueled water heater, and seepage through foundations in areas of high CO2 soil content.[10] Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas, and because it weighs 1.5 times more than normal air,[11] it tends to concentrate toward the floor,[8] depending on temperature and air currents. In South Korea, some people sleep on traditional floor mats called yos, while others prefer western-style beds, and floor vents may be absent in rooms equipped with radiant underfloor heating, called ondol.[12] According to The Straight Dope website run by the Chicago Reader, asphyxiation is an unlikely cause of fan death because "few rooms are totally sealed, and the fan would tend to keep CO2 and other gases well mixed".[6] -------------------------------------------------

[edit]Actual hazard
The US EPA does not warn of fan death, but it discourages people from using fans in closed rooms without ventilation during excessive heat, specifically when...
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