VITAS Healthcare has provided a very comprehensive video on the precautions to take when using medical oxygen.
How To Use Oxygen Safely
“How to Safely Use Oxygen In Your Home
Now that you are using oxygen in your home, there may be some changes to your lifestyle. We want to assure you that oxygen is safe to use, but only in the right conditions.
To avoid accidents, it is important to understand the potential dangers of oxygen in your home.
Oxygen is often times not taken seriously, as many believe that oxygen is just air. Oxygen itself is colourless, odourless and tasteless. It makes up about 21% of the air we breathe.
While oxygen itself does not burn, it helps things burn faster and hotter.
The air we breathe contains about 21% oxygen. The oxygen in an oxygen cylinder such as the E cylinder we have here has purity levels of 99% oxygen or greater.
Any concentration of oxygen greater than 23.5% causes materials in your home to ignite much more easily. Oxygen lowers the temperature at which everyday household objects will start to burn. This can include your bedding, clothing, carpets, draperies and even your hair. By the way, it does not matter if the oxygen is from an oxygen cylinder, oxygen concentrator or liquid oxygen reservoir.
Oxygen from any of these sources is above 23.5% and will make most materials ignite and very low temperatures, burn quickly and twice as hot as a normal fire.
We would like to provide you with a few demonstrations of the dangers of oxygen.
Please do not attempt these demonstrations as they can be very dangerous and cause severe injury.
This is how a cigarette burns in the air we are currently breathing. Now let’s see what happens to the cigarette and how it burns when we introduce medical-grade oxygen. Notice the
cigarette is burning much more quickly, it is burning much hotter and faster than it was on room air that we breathe. You may have noticed the white hot flame that indicates a flame temperature measured in the thousands of degrees Fahrenheit.
Next, we would like to show you how an article of clothing will burn in a normal environment. Notice the article of clothing does not catch on fire very quickly. Now let’s saturate a piece of clothing with some oxygen and see what happens. Please note the piece of clothing will be above the 23.5% purity levels. We are actually using a metal pan to simulate the skin of the patient during this presentation. Please notice how much more rapidly the patient’s skin as well as clothing would catch on fire with oxygen used while smoking with oxygen in the place.
We’ve made a pipe-cleaner man that we will presume to be the patient. This patient, like many other patients, continues to smoke with oxygen in use, as he is convinced that smoking with oxygen cannot be dangerous. In fact, our patient continues to smoke in bed. When he decides he wants to have a cigarette, he takes his cannula off and lays it next to him in the bed. Our patient thinks that oxygen is just air and cannot hurt him. In this case our patient is wrong, terribly wrong. Let’s place our patient in this glass jar so we can simulate saturating the patient’s clothing with oxygen. This covering on the pipe cleaner will be his clothing. Let’s see what happens when an ember is introduced from one of his cigarettes. The fire was very impressive. However, the fire you just saw was far hotter than a normal fire. Oxygen enriched fires burn between 1500 and 3000 degrees Fahrenheit or even more depending on the materials involved. This much heat will cause serious injury which are almost always life threatening.
Sadly, this does happen in real life. Our patients have been injured and some even killed by fires caused by the misuse of oxygen. I want so badly to prevent that from happening
and it’s why I’m here right now talking to you.
Here’s a real life story from a patient who was smoking while using oxygen. He agreed to talk with us on camera to try to keep this from happening to somebody else.
Gary : “I guess I wasn’t thinking right. I was smoking with the oxygen on. And I fell asleep. And I woke up to a big blaze in my face. Ended up burning myself, different parts of my body. My nose real good. My lip a little bit. I was in a lot of pain. My wife and daughter put out the fire. Put me out. Called the ambulance. I ended up rolling around on the floor in pain. I knew that you don’t wear oxygen when you smoke and I thought I was a smart enough individual that I would never do it and get burned up.
I just thought I was smart enough and I knew that wouldn’t happen to me. But it did. Well, before, I used to just take this off and I wouldn’t even turn that off because I didn’t think
I needed to. And I would just, as long as this was away from me, I thought that was good enough. And I would just take this and throw it on the floor, make sure it was a good distance from me, and I’d smoke. Now of course I know that’s not even good enough. When I want to smoke now, first thing I do is ask somebody to turn the machine off. And once they’ve turned it off, I sit this down on the floor and then I get a cigarette and I light it. Then once I’m done with it and I put it out and it’s totally out in the ash tray, then I get this and I ask somebody to turn it back on.”
Now let’s go over some important points to remember, so you can safely use oxygen in your home.
When using or storing oxygen ,keep oxygen at least 10 feet away from open flames and other sources of heat.
Oxygen cylinders and tubing require the same consideration.
Remember, electric appliances like toaster, space heaters, hair dryers, electric blankets, and electric razors have the potential to overheat and may spark when in use.
Never smoke or allow smoking around any oxygen source and it’s tubing.
Don’t use flammable materials near oxygen, hair and aerosol sprays, paints and thinners can all pose risks. Even certain petroleum products like Vaseline and Vapor Rub can pose a danger. A spark can quickly ignite these types of products increasing the risk of fire and severe burns.
Keep oxygen tanks and tubing in well ventilated areas because oxygen tends to build up in the surrounding air and concentrate in clothes, bedding and curtains.
Never store oxygen cylinders in a closed area including closets or under a bed.
Here’s how to safely use the valve on an oxygen cylinder. All oxygen cylinder valves must be opened slowly and completely, like this. If you open it too quickly, heat is generated
and it’s called the heat of recompression. There’s enough heat to ignite anything that’s inside the valve or regulator including dust. What essentially happens is you are creating an oxygen -enriched fire inside the oxygen regulator and the valve. So remember to always open the valve slowly and completely. Additionally, never use any type of lubricant or oil
on the oxygen cylinder or regulator.
One hazard of oxygen is the vast amount of energy that is stored in a full or partially full oxygen cylinder. All oxygen cylinders should be considered sleeping giants. If a large cylinder such as an “H” cylinder or “M” cylinder as seen here were to accidently fall over, the valve could break off, and the cylinder will accelerate up to 40 miles per hour in just 0.5 of a second. These large cylinders have enough energy in them to go through two cinder block walls. All oxygen cylinders should always be secured. This can be in either a rack or a stand to prevent them from falling over. This is exactly why we tell our patients to never story oxygen cylinders in the trunk of their cars. Should you be involved in a rear end collision with oxygen cylinders in the trunk the valve could be sheared off causing the cylinder to hurt you and even those outside of your car.
Because oxygen tanks have so much energy and pressure inside, it’s important to take great caution when traveling with them in a car. Secure your oxygen cylinder in the back passenger area of your vehicle. Don’t let a cylinder roll or bang around. And never keep an oxygen in the trunk. Your vehicle should be well ventilated. Leave the window slightly cracked open to prevent oxygen and hot temperatures from building up inside.
Here’s an oxygen safety summary and a few more tips.
Always follow these precautionary measures for the safety of your family and yourself. Never smoke while using oxygen. Warn visitors not to smoke near you when you are using oxygen.
Not following these measures could result in severe injuries, total destruction of your home, and even death. Smoking while using oxygen not only endangers your life but those who
live in the home with you and people around you.
No Smoking signs should be placed on your homes main entrance.
Firefighters, emergency personnel and visitors need to know that oxygen is being used in your home.
For oxygen concentrators only use a properly grounded wall outlet. Do not place the electrical cord or oxygen tubing under rugs, carpets, blankets, cushions or furniture.
Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby and make sure you know how to use it.
Have working smoke detectors on hand and check them monthly.
Oxygen is a great benefit for patients who need oxygen therapy. However, it should always be handled with caution.