Are Nightlights a Fire Hazard?


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Night lights are comforting appliances for little children or adults who aren’t particularly fond of the dark. Nightlights illuminate rooms softly, creating a sense of security needed by toddlers and some adults to sleep. However, despite its simple task of lighting up a place at night, a nightlight is still an electrical device and poses a degree of danger.

Nightlights are potential fire hazards, as the heat emitted from the bulbs can set nearby beddings, curtains, drapes, and other flammable materials on fire. Additionally, defective units and overheating can cause the nightlight and socket to melt, resulting in possible electrical fires.

This article explains in detail how nightlight can cause fires. It also discusses other safety hazards associated with night lights, fire prevention, and nightlight safety and safe operation.

How Nightlights Cause Fires

Night Lights cause fires when the heated light bulbs ignite nearby flammable materials such as toilet paper, bed sheets, and blankets. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports a yearly average of about ten fire accidents caused by nightlights igniting beddings. These incidents resulted from flammable materials that were placed close to the nightlights. 

As they work throughout the night, the lights, especially those with incandescent bulbs, can overheat, causing the plastic housing and possibly the outlet to melt, leading to potential fires. 

Additionally, defective units, even those with the cooler LED bulbs, can cause electrical fires when components in the device malfunction, which was the case in 2012 when about 227,000 LED nightlights were recalled after several reported incidents of smoking, burning, melting, and charred units.

Other Hazards With Nightlights

A possible fire outbreak remains the most prominent safety hazard with nightlights. However, fires are not the only thing that should concern you about nightlights. These include electric shock, infant injuries, health issues, and poison.

Infant Injuries

Nightlights are common features of most children’s rooms. However, this poses a unique hazard, as children might suffer burns when they attempt to touch the bright and colorful bulbs.

Furthermore, infants attracted by the colorful lights may attempt to play with the bulbs, break them in the process, release any toxic chemicals like methylene chloride, or even ingest broken fragments. 

Electric Shock

Like every other electrical appliance, there’s the ever-present risk of electric shock. This risk increases with defective or substandard units that overheat or melt. Electric shock can also occur when you use the light in wet or moist locations such as bathrooms, around kitchen sinks, and garages.

Poison

Special decorative night lights, known as bubble lights, frequently contain methylene chloride, a colorless yet volatile liquid that bubbles in the lamp when heated. 

If the liquid leaks out of the vial for whatever reason, it could be toxic if inhaled or comes in contact with the skin. Methylene chloride gets converted to carbon monoxide in the body with all of the associated adverse effects of carbon poisoning like headaches, vomiting, and possible death.

Health Issues

Leaving lights on at night or even dim lights can affect the circadian rhythm, which is the body’s biological clock, resulting in reduced melatonin levels. Reduced melatonin in the body can result in insomnia, depression, and migraines.

Furthermore, melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland to regulate sleep, has been shown to inhibit tumor growth. Consequently, exposure to light at night, even dim lights, reduces the hormone’s effectiveness, as the brain can still pick up on light even with your eyes closed. 

Nightlights thus throw off the circadian rhythm, confusing the brain as to the time of day and disrupting natural melatonin production. Accordingly, women who work at night jobs are at higher risk of having breast cancer from extended exposure to nighttime lights.

Children are at even greater risk. A study has shown that the effect of night light on melatonin is twice as much in children as in adults. Consequently, children exposed to night lights have an increased chance of developing cancers later in life.

Nightlight Safety

Despite the hazards, nightlights are typically safe to use, provided they are not substandard and that you use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Nightlight safety involves preventing fires, buying from reputable brands, and safe usage.

Preventing Nightlight Fires

“Prevention is better than cure,” this quote is even more valid considering the destructive ability of fire. Accordingly, you should take preventive actions against fires. The following are some steps you can take to prevent fires that may be caused by nightlights. 

  • Position nightlights away from the bed, curtain, drapes, and other flammable materials.
  • Use units produced by known and credible manufacturers that bear marks of quality. These are less likely to be defective or cause electric fires.
  • Buy nightlights that use cooler LED or neon bulbs instead of the seven-watt incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs do not emit enough heat to cause fires. 

Buy From Reputable Brands

Patronizing reputable brands is perhaps the most crucial aspect of nightlight safety. Unlike fire prevention and safe usage, you have no direct control over the manufacturing process and the quality of materials used. Therefore, to prevent possible accidents from defective units, it is best to buy nightlights from credible brands noted for quality.

Additionally, ensure that you register new lights with the manufacturer to get notified of possible recalls.

Safe Usage

Unsafe and improper usage can cause units to malfunction, resulting in possible fire outbreaks, electric shocks, or both. Safe use includes the following:

  • Adhere strictly to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Always operate the nightlight with dry hands.
  • Never attempt to modify or alter the device.
  • Do not use a nightlight that appears to have been modified.
  • Use nightlights only in well ventilated and dry areas, as dampness can cause electric shock.
  • Plug nightlights into standard outlets and never extension cords or similar devices.
  • Check for burns and scorch marks on the plug and socket regularly. 
  • Throw out broken nightlights to avoid possible methylene chloride poisoning and choking hazards.
  • As much as possible, use dim red or green light instead of blue, as blue light impairs melatonin secretions more severely.
  • Discontinue using units that produce a buzzing or crackling sound or are excessively hot to the touch.
  • Install nightlights out of the reach of children.

Getting Rid of Nightlights

You may wish to do away with nightlights entirely, having been made aware of the different hazards posed by nightlights. However, doing so may prove somewhat tricky, especially with little children who have grown accustomed to sleeping with nightlights. In such cases, you can use a gradual approach to get rid of the light, by reducing the brightness every other night, to the point where the child no longer needs it.

Alternatively, you can move the light out of the room and place it in the hallway, leaving the door open. After the first two days, begin to close the door bit by bit every other day until it can be closed completely. You can also use sound machines to help children stay asleep without lights. 

I recommend the Sound + Sleep sound machine available on Amazon, as it uses real sounds from nature, resulting in better sleep quality.

Conclusion

Nightlights, like most electrical appliances, are fire hazards. The fires result from close contact between heated bulbs and beddings, curtains, drapes, and other flammable materials. Electric fires can also result from defective and overheated units.

Besides fire, nightlights pose the risk of electric shock, poisoning, health complications, and infant injuries. Consequently, it is best to adopt nightlight safety practices to prevent possible fires, injuries, and poisoning. Additionally, only buy products from reputable brands, as these are less likely to be defective or cause fires. 

Alanna Greene

Alanna is an avid traveler who lives in Michigan. In addition to writing for Temperature Master, she also sells crafts on Etsy and takes long walks through the forests near her home.

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