GRAIN-FILLED HEAT PACK SAFETY
"HEATING GRAIN-FILLED PILLOWS IN
MICROWAVE POSES FIRE HAZARD"
OTTAWA - The Health Protection Branch (HPB) of
Health Canada is warning consumers that heating grain-filled pillows in
a microwave can pose a fire hazard.
These pillows are
intended for heat or cold therapy to relieve pain. Instructions for
some of these pillows indicate that they can be frozen, or heated in a
microwave or regular oven. Some are sold without any warnings or
directions for use.
Health Canada has investigated an incident in which
a pillow filled with buckwheat husks started a fire in the user's
bedroom, after having been heated in a microwave oven and then placed
under a blanket.
Testing by Health Canada shows that flameless
burning can occur if a pillow is heated in a microwave oven longer than
the manufacturer's maximum recommended heating period. Tests were
conducted on two materials: buckwheat husks and oat grain. While
buckwheat husks are more flammable, oat-grain filled pillows will also
ignite if overheated.
The risk of fire is further increased by heating a
pillow several times a day without allowing it to cool down between
each use, or by storing it in a hot or dry location. All of these
conditions reduce the moisture content of the filling and make it
easier to ignite. What makes microwave heating especially dangerous is
that there may be no signs of burning until sometime after the pillow
is removed from the oven.
Health Canada has advised known maufacturers and
distributors that heating should not be recommended for grain-filled
pillows unless the manufacturer can demonstrate that the product can be
heated safely. Otherwise, the product label should state that the
contents are flammable and should not be heated.
These pillows are sold in several sizes, with
fillings of various grains. They are available in stores or by mail
order, or from small manufacturers, local distributors, flea markets
and craft shows. Filling materials are also sold in bulk to allow
people to make their own pillows.
Before buying a grain-filled pillow, consumers
should check that the directions for use include the following:
Maximum heating period
Minimum time period between consecutive heatings
Maximum number of heatings per day
Warnings of the fire hazard if instructions for use are not followed
Health Canada has asked manufacturers and
distributors to include this information in the directions for use,
which should be permanently attached to the pillow.
Consumers who are not sure whether a pillow can be
safely heated should contact the nearest regional HPB office of Health