Are electric blankets safe? I stopped using them years ago when I heard they cause cancer.
We see no reason to fear electric blankets, though old blankets can burn you and cause fires if not used properly.
Whether electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produced by power lines and household appliances such as electric blankets can increase the risk of certain cancers or miscarriages in humans has been the subject of intensive study for more than 30 years.
However, there has been no convincing evidence that typical exposures to EMFs pose any risk of causing cancer. In any case, electric blankets made since 1990 produce much weaker EMFs than older ones. Some experts have been reluctant to give use of electric blankets a clean bill of health for pregnant women, though, because the developing fetus is particularly sensitive to various environmental conditions. In addition, becoming very overheated when pregnant is risky.
New electric blankets have safety features designed to reduce the risk of fire and burns. Replace an electric blanket that’s more than 10 years old with a new one certified by an independent testing lab. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for use, especially concerning use while sleeping. Whether the electric blanket is old or new, make sure there are no loose connections or scorch marks on the blanket before you use it, and check that the power cord is not frayed or cut.
Originally published in The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (February 2011)