Breathe Easy . . .
Using Home Oxygen Safely
Advice for patients, families, doctors, nurses and therapists:
Smoking and Oxygen is a dangerous combination
Oxygen & Fire can be deadly!
- Guidelines for the Fire Service on educating smokers on the dangers of smoking while on oxygen therapy
- Breathe Easy- Using Home Oxygen Safely pamphlet file size 3MB <<NEW>>
- Black and White version of pamphlet
- 11 X 17 Home Oxygen Poster file size 1MB
- Smoking and Home Oxygen Fire Factors
- Home Oxygen Television Public Service Announcement file size 1MB
- Home Oxygen Radio Public Service announcement
- Home Oxygen: What Everyone Should Know file size 2MB
For Help and information on quitting smoking go to: www.trytostop.org
- U.S. Fire Administration
- Special Report on Fires Involving Medical Oxygen Equipment, March 1999
- National Fire Protection Association
- MMWR - April 23, 2008 Vol 57, No 31;852
- U.S. Fire Administration
Risks of Combining Smoking & Home Oxygen Therapy:
- Oxygen, while not flammable itself, does support combustion. In fact most fires need oxygen to enable burning to occur. Remove the oxygen and most fires will go out.
- Oxygen therapy provides a patient with a higher concentration of oxygen (40 to 100%) than the air we naturally breathe (20% oxygen.)
- In an oxygen-enriched environment materials will ignite easier and burn at a faster rate with more intensity than they ordinarily would.
- Some materials that do not normally burn will burn in an enriched oxygen atmosphere. Nomex, the material used in firefighter protective gear, can burn vigorously when exposed to high oxygen levels.
- A cigarette, match or lighter can ignite materials such as clothing, furniture, bedding and human hair.
- Petroleum based products, oils, grease and lotions can self-ignite in the presence of high oxygen concentrations
Patients using therapeutic oxygen who continue to smoke are at risk:
- In Massachusetts, from 1997 to 2011 there have been 31 deaths and 57 serious burn injuries related to smoking and oxygen.
- Many other fires involving therapeutic oxygen caused extensive property damage.
- Two fires that occurred in public housing displaced residents and cost cities and towns over $600,000.00.
Reduce the Risk
- If you can't stop smoking take off the oxygen and wait 10 minutes for the oxygen levels to reduce. Go outside to smoke.
- Don't use oxygen while you are cooking, or near an open flame such as a fireplace or woodstove. Even sparks from appliances, electric razors and hair dryers can be a source of ignition.
- Make sure that the smoke alarms in the home are working properly
- Plan and practice a home fire escape drill
- If the patient has mobility limitations the plan will need to be modified to meet those needs.
NFPA report finds smoking is leading factor in home fires involving oxygen administration equipment:
August 20, 2008 - In 2002-2005, oxygen administration equipment was involved in an estimated average of 209 home fires reported annually to fire departments, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report Fires and Burns Involving Home Medical Oxygen (PDF, 224 KB). These fires caused an average of 46 civilian deaths and 62 civilian injuries per year. Smoking materials provided the heat of ignition in roughly six in 10 of these fires and fire injuries, and three in four of the deaths.
When more oxygen is in the air, things such as hair, plastic, skin oils, clothing and furniture can catch fire at lower temperatures. Any fire that starts will burn hotter and faster.
According to the report, in 2003-2006, an estimated average of 1,190 people were treated annually in emergency rooms for thermal burns caused by ignitions associated with home medical oxygen; nearly 90 percent of the victims suffered facial burns. Smoking materials were reported to be the heat source in nearly three in four of these cases. Cooking and candles were other common factors.
NFPA suggests that people using home medical oxygen and those associated with its use keep the following safety tips in mind to avoid fires and injuries:
- Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used.
- 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 monthly.
- 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.
For Additional Information Contact:
Department of Fire Services
Fire Data and Public Education Unit
P.O. Box 1025
Stow, MA 01775
www.mass.gov/dfs click on Fire Safety Topics