If you’re reading this, you’ve probably encountered a smoke machine at an event, party or gig before. You might also have wondered if it’s dangerous, or if the smoke it spits out is possibly a health risk. In this blog, I’ll tell you how safe smokes machines are and what kind of qualifications they need to meet. Let’s find out how much truth there is to “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Smoke, Fog or Mist?
Let’s clear up one the biggest misconceptions first: smoke machines and foggers are often used interchangeably, leading to mass confusion. Smoke machines produce mist or fog (so no smoke) to enhance the atmosphere or enrich shows, and are used for dance parties, photo shoots and film-making. This is not to be confused with security smoke, which was invented to daze and disorient burglars.
Fluid and Mist Density
The mist produced by a smoke machine is created by heating up smoke fluid and it usually doesn’t stick around for long. Depending on the model, smoke machines emit a thick or light mist. Contrarily, mist generators use a special type of mist fluid that, when evaporated, immediately limits your sight and continues to float in the room. You won’t even be able to see farther than 20cm – how’s that for a fog warning!
Health Risks Shrouded in Smoke?
There has been plenty of debate in the past on the possible health risks connected to inhaling the smoke produced by smoke machines. In 2015, the regulations regarding the use of diethylene glycol were changed, since long-term exposure to this substance causes respiratory damage. Today, most manufacturers are no longer making any smoke fluid based on diethylene glycol and have replaced it with something called propylene glycol, which is harmless in low concentrations. However, because there are so many different types of smoke fluids made up of different ingredients, it’s hard to determine just how much of a health and safety concern smoke fluid actually is. Mist generators are confirmed as being safe, since the fog they produce doesn’t leave behind any residue.
Heating or Burning?
As said, propylene glycol is safe in low concentrations, but the downside is that when it’s ‘combusted,’ another substance is formed: propylene oxide. This stuff is actually dangerous, which is why proper smoke machines (combined with good-quality smoke fluid) only heat up and vaporise fluid, while budget models sometimes burn the fluid and in the process produce a harmful mist. But, to put it all into perspective: cigarettes contain propylene glycol, which gets burned and then consciously inhaled. As a matter of fact, even in much larger concentrations than you’d ever get from a smoke machine!
Use Your Common Sense
Like always, you should act responsibly when it comes your smoke machine and the fluid you use. In any case, you need a certain basic understanding of how smoke machines work and which fluid you should use. Fluids largely consist of distilled water and a little propylene glycol and a colouring agent. Do some research on how much residue different fluids leave behind and you’ll see that premium fluid ‘performs’ better than budget fluid. Lastly, always use your common sense and be aware of the situation on hand. After all, that goes for everything we do in life.