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Alcohol Stove Safety and Fuel Selection

Alcohol Stove Safety Warning:

posted Feb 7, 2011, 9:51 PM by Jason Rogers   [ updated Feb 8, 2011, 2:38 PM ]



Neither the webmaster nor anyone else whose information may be included on, or linked to, this web site can attest to or endorse the safety of using any techniques, equipment, supplies or services evaluated or referred to therein.  Any endorsement or recommendation is limited solely to the evaluator's opinion about their effectiveness when used for their intended purpose in accordance with safe operating procedures, and if available, in accordance with any instructions provided by the inventor or manufacturer.  Some survival and outdoors equipment and supplies are inherently unsafe and can injure, maim or kill even when used appropriately.


Endorsement or recommendation of any equipment, supplies, services or techniques does not constitute a guaranty or warranty that equipment, supplies, services or techniques will function when needed or are safe to use.


Information on this site is provided for educational purposes only.  If you choose to experiment with any designs, fuels, equipment or information included on this site, do so at your own risk.




Alcohol Stoves

In daylight you may not be able to see a flame or hear an audible sound from an alcohol stove.  A windscreen wrapped partially around the stove may aid in seeing a flame more easily.  Dry grass, scraps of paper, may be used to test if stove still burning at full output.


DO NOT OVERFILL STOVE. A space between the fuel inside the stove and the jets, vents or top of the stove is necessary for proper operation of most alcohol stoves and overfilling can cause liquid fuel to be ejected out of the stove instead of alcohol vapor, creating a potentially hazardous fire.


Eye protection should be worn whenever flying metal is possible (such as whenever a drill, hammer or knife is used).


Lighting of stoves should be attempted in a area not prone to fire. Water and a fire extinguisher should always be nearby.


Use of gasoline, or any other petroleum products in these stoves may result in severe burns and/or death.



All Stoves

All stoves are inherently dangerous in that they may cause serious burns, explode, cause blindness and/or have very toxic fuels that can cause a number of health concerns.  Recklessness, carelessness, equipment failure and even proper usage of stoves and fuels can lead to serious injury.  Do so at your own risk.


Stoves should never be used in an enclosed space such as a tent because of the carbon monoxide and fire hazards that take so many lives each year.



Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel should never be used for cookware or food storage since this may lead to zinc poisoning (aka heavy metal poisoning).  Exposure to high levels of zinc can cause lethargy, dizziness, nausea, fever, diarrhea, irritability, muscular stiffness and pain, loss of appetite, and reversible pancreatic and neurological damage.


Pot stands and stoves constructed from galvanized steel can cause metal fume fever when heated.  This is caused by the inhalation of zinc oxide fumes or dust produced when galvanized steel is welded or burned.  The signs and symptoms can be vague (shaking chills, fever, body aches, headache, and fatigue) and are similar to those of the flu or a viral illness.  Onset of symptoms often occur after well after exposure (3-10 hours) and makes the connection between using your stove and sickness less obvious than one would think.  Symptoms usually resolve after 48 hours if you quit cooking with galvanized steel.


Metal Fume Fever has been linked with occupational asthma and is a pretty noxious illness.



Teflon Cookware

Heating of Teflon (polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE, aka Fluon and Halon) above 300°F can cause Polymer fume fever (aka Teflon Flu).  This causes a flu-like illness with chest tightness and mild cough about 4-8 hours after exposure and generally resolves in 48 hours.


If Teflon is heated past 450°F, the PTFE is broken down through pyrolysis creating different products that may cause acute lung injury.


You should never heat a Teflon coated pot or pan without water in it - on the trail or at home.



Hydrocarbon Fuels

All stove fuels are toxic to some degree.  See the Fuels Comparison Chart for CHRIS and MSDSs for common fuels.


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