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HOTPOT HAZARDS: HOTPOT SAFETY AND CARBON MONOXIDE

Traditional coal-heated hotpots are ideal to warm you up on cold winter nights. But don’t forget to take proper safety measures when having indoor hotpot.

Over recent years, there has been more attention for ‘hotpot safety’ when it comes to carbon monoxide, with Chinese media warning people not to let their hotpot night turn into a disaster (“别让’火锅’变’祸锅’).

In late 2020, twelve people who were having hotpot together at a restaurant in Jiamusi, a city in China’s Heilongjiang province, suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. There were no open windows at the restaurant, nor was there a proper ventilation system.

In December of 2021, a similar incident happened during a home hotpot family gathering in Hangzhou, leading to the hospitalization of 11 people, including a 4-year-old child. A few years ago, a total of 47 people suffered carbon monoxide poisoning when they were eating hotpot at a restaurant in Taipei that was using burning coal for their hotpot.

Incidents such as these have been popping up more frequently. News of people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning while having hotpot especially comes up during winter, when people tightly close windows and doors while gathering around the table, causing rising indoor concentrations of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when breathing in too much carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels. Carbon monoxide can come from any source that burns fuel. It is also called the “silent killer” because it causes no irritation to the nose or throat, but when people are exposed to excessive amounts it will prevent blood cells from carrying oxygen, starving our body of the oxygen it needs.

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache and dizziness, vomiting, and confusion. Breathing in too much can eventually lead to unconsciousness and can even be lethal. In China alone, minimally 200 people per year die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

 

Tips for Safe Hotpotting

 

Ventilation is key

Ventilation is always key when doing hotpot, no matter what kind of appliances you use – your clothes and home will otherwise surely smell of hotpot for a long time afterward otherwise – but be sure to only use vented fuel-burning appliances in a well-ventilated area. Open a door if you can, and be sure to leave some windows open.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

It is always good to have CO2 safety monitors installed inside your home. In many restaurants, this is already required. If you doubt the safety measures taken by a restaurant where you are having a traditional hotpot and there is not enough ventilation, don’t be afraid to inquire (or otherwise, you might want to pick another place..)

Use Electric Hotpot

Although having a traditional charcoal hotpot certainly has its charm, using electric stoves under your pots might be a safer option. We’ve listed some options here including electric/induction ones.

Lastly, if you or anyone else at the dinner table is developing signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, including headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion, seek medical attention immediately.

By Manya Koetse

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. b1ackdr4g0n

    March 25, 2022 at 11:49 pm

    It’s cold as Heil in Heilongjiang. Of course the windows are never open!

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