In South Korea People Believe Electric Fans Cause Death

Many South Koreans Believe That Household Electric Fans Cause Death By Asphyxiation and Hypothermia

ge electric fanYou may have heard of people losing fingers by sticking their hands into spinning fan blades, but have you ever heard of an electric fan sucking all the air out of a room and killing you through asphyxiation?

Of course not, unless you were brought up in South Korea.

You see, in the 1970’s to conserve electricity use, the South Korean government spread a rumor that electric fans could cause death by hypothermia or asphyxiation.

Well that would certainly cut down on your fan use!

As illogical and unscientific as this situation sounds, many people in South Korea believe it to be true.

Below is an excerpt from May 24 New York Times about the situation:

But across South Korea, many people believe the whirring blades can cause death — and to address those fears, manufacturers equip fans with sleep timers.

How, exactly, might the electric breeze kill? Theories abound in South Korea, among them that the cold air circulating in a sealed room could cause hypothermia, leading to organ failure. Or maybe they suck out the oxygen, causing suffocation. Some fear that the fan itself converts oxygen molecules into carbon dioxide.

For the record, none of these theories are true. But that has not stopped the Korean news media from reporting on supposed fan deaths. Even the government has endorsed the lethal-breeze idea. In 2006, the state-funded Korean Consumer Protection Board listed “asphyxiation from electric fans and air-conditioners” as one of the top five recurring summer accidents.

The agency warned:

If bodies are exposed to electric fans or air-conditioners for too long, it causes bodies to lose water and hypothermia. If directly in contact with a fan, this could lead to death from increase of carbon dioxide saturation concentration and decrease of oxygen concentration. The risks are higher for the elderly and patients with respiratory problems.

According to the advisory, there were 20 cases of fan asphyxiation between 2003 and 2005. “To prevent asphyxiation,” it said, “timers should be set, wind direction should be rotated and doors should be left open.”

Not all South Koreans buy into the electric fan myth, but it just goes to show how far people will believe in irrational things if propagated by their government.

Not like our government would ever lie to us.


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