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Journal Article


Log T, Moi AL. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018; 15(11): e15112379.


Department of Plastic Surgery and Burn Center, Haukeland University Hospital, Jonas Lies vei 65, 5021 Bergen, Norway.


(Copyright © 2018, MDPI: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute)






Biofuel heaters and fireplaces have in recent years been introduced for indoor and outdoor use. Due to their simplicity, they are usually equipped with few or no safety features. Worldwide, incidents resulting in major skin burn injury and long hospitalization periods have occurred when using such biofuel units. The present study analyses the characteristics of the liquids ethanol and methanol to get a scientific background for understanding related accidents. The comparably heavy vapors, especially from ethanol, may generate a pillow of combustible gas in the vicinity of the unit, particularly in quiescent indoor air conditions. It is also revealed that these fuels represent a potential severe risk, since the equilibrium vapor pressures are close to the stoichiometric fuel⁻air composition at normal room temperatures. Selected incidents were reviewed to understand the mechanisms involved when severe burns were received by the users. It turns out that the most severe incidents were related to refilling operations and included ignition of the fuel container vapor phase. When ignited, the container gas phase expansion propelled burning fuel from the bottle or container onto the user or other persons in the vicinity. Similar incidents involving refilling methanol for chemistry demonstrations and ethanol for endodontic (dentistry) treatment were also studied and it was shown that these accidents followed similar accident mechanisms. It may be concluded that the main contributors to burn risk are the near-stoichiometric vapor pressure of these liquids at room temperature and the close proximity of the fuel container to burning fuel. Research needs and possible technical barriers are suggested to reduce this risk for the future.

Language: en


biofuel fireplaces; biofuel heaters; burn injuries; ethanol; methanol


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