Supplemental oxygen can help patients who have compromised lung function due to emphysema, COPD and other chronic conditions to breathe easier. Today’s lightweight, portable oxygen systems allow patients on oxygen to travel, shop and live independent, mobile lives while still enjoying the benefits of supplemental oxygen. If you use oxygen or if you live in a household where someone uses supplemental oxygen, you should never smoke anywhere near the equipment, as doing so puts you and others in considerable danger.

Dangers to Yourself

Pure oxygen in highly flammable, and striking a match or holding a lit cigarette anywhere near it can start a fire. Even when the oxygen delivery system is turned off, oxygen from the system has probably built up around you while you were using the system. According to Massachusetts General Hospital, oxygen molecules can cling to your hair, skin and clothing and ignite upon contact with any source of flame, including a cigarette. The results would be severe burns to your body, particularly to your face and hands. (Reference 2) The National Fire Protection Association reports that between 2003 and 2006, hospitals treated an estimated 1,190 people for burns related to home oxygen use. Eighty-nine percent of those treated suffered facial burns. (Reference 1)

Massachusetts Fire Marshall Stephen D. Coan reported in 2010 that since 1997 in Massachusetts alone, home oxygen had been involved in 24 fire-related fatalities. Another 50 people were injured in fires involving home oxygen, seven of these firefighters.(Reference 2) A study conducted in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Oklahoma from 200 to 2007 tallied 38 fatalities in those states due to smoking and home oxygen use. (Reference 3) If you smoke while using oxygen, you put not only your own life at risk, but the lives of your family, neighbors and the rescue personnel who respond to a fire.

Danger to Property

Fires caused by smoking and oxygen can cause a lot of property damage. This may range to smoke and water damage to structures caused by efforts to put out the fire to complete destruction of buildings. If you live in an apartment and cause a fire due to smoking while using oxygen, you could destroy not only your own home but those of your neighbors around you.

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