Electric blankets are blankets with self-contained electrical heating. Through the 1980s these blankets were controlled by a dial or digital thermostat unit through which the user adjusted the level of heating as needed. Electric blankets for double beds and larger beds may feature individual controls for each side of the bed and to suit the differing comfort levels of multiple users.
Electric blankets have been modernized since the 1980s, now offering greater safety and functionality through rheostats in lieu of thermostats. Rheostats gauge not only the blanket’s temperature for regulation, but also the user’s body temperature. This prevents overheating, hot spots, and minor burns.
Electric blankets are now generally utilized like a standard blanket, above the bed sheet and under a top cover. The user sleeps beneath the warming blanket and sheet with the unit controller within reach for necessary nighttime adjustment. They are particularly popular amongst the elderly and bedridden, whether utilized on the bed or over a wheelchair.
In the United States in 2000, five deaths and 76 other injurious accidents occurred as a result of faulty electric blankets. These incidences cost the government, medical institutions, and manufacturers a total of $41.2 million. The majority of these injuries were due to fire, burns, or smoke related incidences.
Electric blankets consist of wiring embedded within the cloth of the blanket. This combination of electricity and cloth create obvious risk of fire, burns, and electrocution. As it is concealed within the blankets, damaged wiring is not immediately visible to consumers during use, adding to the continued risk of shock or fire.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission heavily regulates the recall of electric blankets as they are deemed defective. However, consumers often do not receive the warnings and proceed with use of damaged products long beyond the recall. Many fires, burns, and electrocutions continue to result from older blankets with defective wiring or components. Recent studies have also indicated that enduring exposure to electrical fields such as those occurring around electric blankets may lead to the development of cancer in general users and even miscarriage for those who are pregnant.
Some examples of general product failure of electric blankets include:
Below is a list of examples of deaths and injuries clearly attributable to defective electric blankets: