US Climatology Expert: Fan Death is Real

Okay, all you expat and gyopo skeptics, time to get out your hats and start munching. US climatology expert Dr. Laurence Kalkstein was in Seoul for a seminar on heat waves and explained the science of how fans kill:

“선풍기로 인한 사망 사고는 대부분 70대 이상 노인에게 발생했으며 주로 밀폐된 방에서 선풍기를 틀고 자다 숨졌다”며 “이는 지금까지 우리가 알고 있는 것과 달리 질식사나 저체온증이 아니다”라고 말했다.

“In a majority of fan death cases, the victim is an elderly person over 70 years old who died in their sleep in an enclosed room with a fan running. Differing from what we know up to now, it’s not suffocation or hypothermia.”

그는 “실내온도가 높을 때 밀폐된 곳에서 선풍기를 틀면 방안의 열기가 사람에게 집중돼 오히려 더 체온이 높아진다”며 “여기에 노출된 피부에 선풍기 바람이 지나가면서 몸의 수분을 빼앗아 결국 심장마비와 뇌졸중, 호흡곤란으로 사망하게 된다”고 설명했다.

He continued, “If a fan is run inside an enclosed room where the indoor temperature is high, the heat is concentrated on the person, so the body temperature actually rises,” further explaining that, “As fan air blows on exposed skin, the body becomes dehydrated, resulting in a heart attack or stroke and death from respiration difficulties.”

미국 환경보호국은 선풍기를 반드시 창문이나 방문 등 외부와 공기가 통하는 곳에 설치하고 밀폐된 방에서 오래 사용하면 안된다고 경고하고 있다.

The US Environmental Protection Agency advises that windows and doors remain open to circulate air and not to use a fan for long periods in an enclosed room.

The entire EPA booklet on heat waves and public health can be viewed in PDF here. Dr. Kalkstein has given numerous media interviews on heat-related illnessed and deaths, including this one with NPR.

*translation note: I had a little difficulty with the sentence “Differing from what we know up to now, it’s not suffocation or hypothermia.” Although it’s a direct quote in the story and was translated as such, the comment discounting suffocation and hypothermia was likely in response to a question, and thus, the “we” in “differing from what we know…” probably refers to Koreans, not experts like Dr. Kalkstein, who I’m pretty sure never believed that fans could suck up oxygen.

The Wiki entry on fan death notes US expert opinions that fans can accelerate hyperthermia when used in spaces with very high temperatures.

HTs to two fellow bloggers who thought the story blogworthy but didn’t have the time to translate it.

133 Comments

  1. cm your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    I saw that on the Korean news too.

    Before I make any comments on this. I want to know what his credentials are. Is he taken seriously in the US?

  2. Posted August 2, 2008 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    Sonagi…

    I thought a more effective headline would be:

    “Per U.S. Expert FAN DEATH REAL!”

    ;)

  3. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    He is, cm. Click his name in the first paragraph and read his very impressive credentials. I listened to the long NPR recording during which he elaborates on the science of fan death. The EPA believes in fan death, too. On p.54 of the linked EPA booklet is the advice quoted in the news story.

    He who laughs last laughs loudest.

  4. Posted August 2, 2008 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Or…. “Per the EPA, FAN DEATH REAL!!!”

    Three exclamation marks for dramatic effect… ;)

  5. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    Now the Chinese will accuse the Koreans of stealing their fan death science.

  6. Posted August 2, 2008 at 2:50 am | Permalink

    The sound you heard is the sound of countless expat heads exploding.

    I was skeptical too, but seems like EPA sanctioned theory sounds pretty legit. After all, they knew exactly what to do with Springfield…

  7. Posted August 2, 2008 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    BTW, read the comments on the fan death post a little bit further down. Now it really looks hysterical.

  8. cm your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    I’ll have to save this article. So is this mean expats who have been making fun of the fan death are going to be believers?

    I just one question, why does this get reported only in Korea? Why no fan deaths in other countries?

  9. Posted August 2, 2008 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    cm,

    My guess is this. According to the explained mechanism, fan death requires a confluence of factors:

    1. a person with weak body temp control (= elderly)
    2. enclosed space
    3. high heat
    4. fan directly going on the body

    So to have a fan death, you first need a hot country where air conditioning is not universal. That knocks out a lot of countries.

    And people tend not to care about news from really poor countries. There may have been cases of fan death is other really hot countries like Zimbabwe, but how many people keep up with Zimbabwean news? Since relatively more people follow Korean news, it attracts more attention? That’s my best guess.

  10. KrZ your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    This guy just trolled Korea hard.

  11. Netizen Kim your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    According to Dr Kalkstein, the electric fan contributes to hyperthermia during the summer heat wave.

    This would explain the death of the 25-year-old who had been out drinking all night. Excessive alcohol consumption makes one more vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

  12. Netizen Kim your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    I just one question, why does this get reported only in Korea? Why no fan deaths in other countries?

    A great Taoist philosopher once proposed this same question by asking “if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to see it, did the tree fall or no?”

    Logic 101: absence of evidence is not equal to evidence of absense.

  13. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    Logic 101: absence of evidence is not equal to evidence of absense.

    Logic 102: absense of evidence to the contrary does not prove a thesis.

  14. seoulk your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    I’m still not buying it as fan death. It’s heat stroke and dehydration death in an extremely vulnerable population, with a rather tenuous suggestion that the fan somehow exacerbates those factors. A couple questions spring to mind:

    – In conditions of extreme heat and no aircon, what exactly are all the windows and doors closed for anyway?

    – In conditions of extreme heat, why isn’t the subject drinking water?

    In a hypothetical side-by-side trial of 70+ year olds in conditions of extreme heat, with the doors and windows closed, and not drinking water, my money says the control group that doesn’t use fans are going to die a hell of a lot faster.

  15. Netizen Kim your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:39 am | Permalink

    In conditions of extreme heat and no aircon, what exactly are all the windows and doors closed for anyway?

    One possible explanation is to prevent mosquitoes and other pesky insects, common in the hot summer months, from entering the sleeping area.

    In conditions of extreme heat, why isn’t the subject drinking water?

    A possible explanation is that it is difficult to drink water while one is fast asleep.

  16. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    – In conditions of extreme heat and no aircon, what exactly are all the windows and doors closed for anyway?

    For safety reasons. Leaving first floor windows open at night is practically inviting a home invasion unless the windows have bars.

    – In conditions of extreme heat, why isn’t the subject drinking water?

    Because they’re sleeping.

  17. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    I still say bullshit. This is one dissenting voice and the so-called “science” behind Dr. Kalkstein’s claim is purely conjectural. when The scientific consensus is that so-called fan death remains a purely anecdotal, unproven hypothesis.

  18. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    First Condi Rice returns Dokdo to Korean sovereignty and now this from the EPA. The Korean lobby has even more influence with the Bush administration than we thought. Lee Myung bak, you go, girl! Roo Moo Hyun, you suck!

  19. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    By the way, need I point out that this is a climatologist making these conjectural medical statements? Where is the research to support his conclusions?

    To say that a thing theoretically possible does not mean that it’s factual.

  20. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    The “dissenting voice” is the EPA.

    Don’t:
    Use a portable electric fan in a closed room without windows or
    doors open to the outside.
    Believe that portable electric fans cool air. They don’t. They just move
    the air around and keep you cool by helping to evaporate your sweat.
    Use a portable electric fan to blow extremely hot air on yourself. This
    can accelerate the risk of heat exhaustion.
    Use a fan as a substitute for spending time in an air-conditioned
    facility during an EHE.
    Direct the flow of portable electric fans toward yourself when
    room temperature is hotter than 90°f

    That’s from pp. 49 and 51 of the EPA guide to Excessive Heat Events, which Sonagi linked in the OP.

    http://www.epa.gov/hiri/about/....._final.pdf

  21. Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    “Dr. Laurence S. Kalkstein is a Senior Research Fellow in the University of Delaware’s Center for Climatic Research. … He is the principal investigator on a number of contracts dealing with the assessment, development and implementation of heat/health watch-warning systems for major cities worldwide. These systems are funded by both private and government organizations such as NOAA/National Weather Service, US EPA, various electrical utilities, and local health departments. There are currently plans for collaboration with the NWS to develop heat/health systems for every major city in the United States. In addition, he is studying the relationship between climate and asthma in conjunction with the U.S. EPA and the City of Philadelphia.”

    The doc’s resume sounds legit to me.

  22. Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    Mizar is upset because it’s like some physicist discovered a equation that unequivically proved the existance of God (or gods). It’s as if his whole world is come crashing down… ;)

  23. Netizen Kim your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Where is the research to support his conclusions?

    Well, Koreans are certainly not going to volunteer as test subjects for any fan death medical experiments.

    Any expats willing to volunteer?

  24. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    “Any expats willing to volunteer?”

    If you tell them it includes getting drunk and passing out, I’m sure a lot of people will sign up.

  25. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    It appears that this bit of “biometeorology” is little more than goofy weathermen taking themselves a little too seriously. This smacks too much of the typical Korean scientism, the pseudo-scientific approach so often employed to “prove” any number of spurious health-related claims about Eastern medicines. Specific compound thought to be beneficial are isolated and this supposedly proves that the medicines are panaceas.

    Using this logic, I attempt to prove the proposition that water is a carcinogen by continuously rubbing it into the moles of rats until some of them develop carcinogenic growths as the result of the constant friction.

  26. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    WangKon: “Mizar is upset because it’s like some physicist discovered a equation that unequivically proved the existance of God (or gods). It’s as if his whole world is come crashing down…”

    Nobody’s proven anything. An assertion was made by someone who “appears to have credentials” and the fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam has been posited as “proof” of an urban legand.

  27. Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    @8, cm:

    “So is this mean expats who have been making fun of the fan death are going to be believers?”

    I think Mizar just answered your question.

  28. Netizen Kim your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    My first car was an 88 Chevy Nova. It had no aircon. I was once stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of a July hot humid heat wave. I noticed that the needle on the temp gauge was rising dramatically. Later it turned out the coolant level was low. In order to help prevent engine overheating, I turned on the heater with the fan speed set to max. Well, I thought I was gonna die. I had the windows open, of course, so I was not in an enclosed space nor was I sleeping. But that personal experience leads me to believe this experts comments about fans being able to increase heat stress.

  29. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    “It appears that this bit of “biometeorology” is little more than goofy weathermen taking themselves a little too seriously. This smacks too much of the typical Korean scientism, the pseudo-scientific approach so often employed to “prove” any number of spurious health-related claims about Eastern medicines.”

    Dr. Kalkstein is a Hanin? Man, the Koreans steal everything. You would think he’d be an undesirable since his name makes him sound like he’s a brick in the Wall of Jews™. Maybe he was recruited when the “Koreans are the Jews of Asia” idea was popular.

    “I attempt to prove the proposition that water is a carcinogen by continuously rubbing it into the moles of rats until some of them develop carcinogenic growths as the result of the constant friction.”

    If your watery mouse massages will keep you away from keyboard for a while, go for it. ;)

  30. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    @20, warning of the theoretical possibility of a risk is not the same as proving that it exists. It just makes sense to err on the side of caution. Mad cow, no matter how statistically unlikely, is a real risk. This one is entirely theoretical and unproven. Like time travel, it remains in the realm of science fiction.

  31. Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    Actually, I just noticed that the linked bio is from 2005. Dr. Kalkstein is now at U of Miami. Excellent choice for a weather guy. I tried putting the link, but it wouldn’t let me.

    Highlight from his new bio:

    He is the principal investigator on a number of contracts dealing with the assessment, development and implementation of heat/health watch-warning systems for major cities worldwide. These systems are funded by both private and government organizations such as NOAA/National Weather Service, US EPA, various electrical utilities, local health departments, and agencies in other countries. This is part of an effort between the Synoptic Climatology Laboratory and NWS to develop heat/health systems for every major city in the United States. At present, about 25 such systems are in operation in the United States, nine are running in Italy, three in Canada, and one in China,. He recently signed a contract with the government of South Korea to develop nine systems for that country, with Seoul’s going online during summer, 2008.

    So Korea will have the fan death alert!!!! My head just exploded.

  32. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    I recall a similar piece of pseudo-science about pillows filled with herbs that were displayed at some expo in Seoul in the 1970s. The article was titled “medicinal pillows popular with foreigners.” Now there’s a double whammy. It implies that it must be scientific if foreigners recognize its value, and also interprets the polite comments of a few foreigners as a rousing endorsement.

    Notice how the media has misappropriated this bit of quackery as supposed scientific vindication for the local folk lore.

  33. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    “Dr. Kalkstein is a Hanin?”

    No, but the reporter was, and he seems to have conveniently neglected to mention the fact that he was talking out of his butt - a 2.9 on the Richter.

  34. Netizen Kim your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Mizer, I must say, when it comes to anything about Korea, you’re about as predictable as a two-headed coin.

  35. Netizen Kim your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    ^ a two-headed coin flip, that is.

  36. j your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    @14

    I agree with you. I mean can someone also die from hear stroke with no fan on with the windows and doors closed on hot days.

    i.e no fresh air circulating.

    Then it has nothing to do with the fan, but with the lack of air circulating in and out of a space, right?

  37. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Netizen Kim: “Mizer, I must say, when it comes to anything about Korea, you’re about as predictable as a two-headed coin.”

    Absolutely. I may be relied upon to look for a logical, clearheaded analysis of an issue.

  38. Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Well fellas, let’s put everything in perspective.

    It seems like this Dr. Kalkstein guy is saything that a fan… in combination with a lot of other stuff… and with a test subject who’s old and sickly any ways, can potentially put that person is a risk where death is possible. So, even in ideal situations, death is a risk but definately not certain.

    So… at the end of the day, most Koreans still have taken what may be a kernel of truth and blown it way out of proportion, to almost mythic levels where a fan blown through the whole night in a hot day can kill olympic athletes as well as old people. Thus, what we still may be left with is still a myth shared by millions of people because it’s been multipled to a degree that’s stretched the truth beyond recognition.

    Just my 20 won.

  39. Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Just listened to the whole NPR thing. At 13:30 mark, Kalkstein specifically mentions the danger of fans in a hot enclosed room, because of the “convention effect”.

    I was a skeptic too - I thought fan death was just a case of hyperthermia, with a fan just happening to be there. But it does sound like fan can make the hyperthermia worse. Unless you are ready to dismiss NPR, Kalkstein and all the places he worked for (EPA, NOAA, NWS), this stuff is pretty convincing.

  40. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    “Just my 20 won.”

    Sound as a dollar.

  41. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Oh… so lastly… it’s kinda like mad cow. Yes, mad cow exists, but it’s danger has been blown way out of proportion by Koreans. Fan death can occur, but it’s danger’s probably also been blown way out of proportion… ;)

  42. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    No…. per current exchange rates, 20 won should be about 2 cents, so…

    My 20 won = My 2 cents

  43. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    @41,

    eh, Americans got their irrational fear of saturated fat. To each country its own.

  44. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    Someone should send a letter for Adam and Jaime at MythBusters to challenge Fan Death. They should also include the EPA report too!

    They can get Grant Imahara to simulate a sleeping Korean… ;)

  45. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    @44, I always wanted to try that, but Korean nutjobs will flip out if Grant plays a Korean. Wait, but there is a possibility of death for him! Hmm…

  46. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Grant can’t play a Korean. Ever see the jalapeneo challenge? He wussed out on green chiles… green chilies! I dip green chilies in red pepper paste to spice up the taste… ;P

  47. mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    “Fan death can occur, but it’s danger’s probably also been blown way out of proportion…”

    No, I’d stick by your prior statement. I’d say that Dr. Wizenheimer’s statement does not support the supposition; it just hypothesizes the supposition.

  48. Lana your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    I sleep in a hot enclosed room with a fan running every single night.

    ….no this is not my ghost posting.

    I’M ALIVE….I’M ALIVE!!! WHOO HOOO!!!!!!!!!!

  49. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Yeah, but are you over 70? If not, then I’m not impressed… <>

  50. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    @ Ask a Korean:

    I changed the link to his current bio page at the University of Miami. Reading this thread, I do hear the sound of one former expat’s head exploding in disbelief.

  51. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Sonagi… they are all asleep.

    Posted 2:12 am Korea time…

    Still 6:35 am Korea time…

  52. Lana your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Nah, nowhere near 70! Darn, I’m not impressive! waaahhhh!!!!!!! *pouts*

    How about I have asthma and no problems breathing in those conditions. Still not impressed?

  53. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    I ain’t gonna lie, I’m eager waiting for the morning in Korea. I haven’t been this giddy since… well, a few days ago when Dodgers got Manny.

  54. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    I certainly get dehydrated (signaled by a rather bad headache) when I do the whole closed room + fan + hot temperature (…which is every night, considering the location). My mouth and nose gets almost completely dry, and I do feel a bit hotter than usual (and not in a good way). But it sure beats what my roommates may try to pull as the revenge for what I always pull on them.

    Perhaps fan effect + hot weather + alcohol + old age + bad health = X-( ?

  55. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    First comes denial…

    Oh, I say about 30 or so posts of people in the Eastern Hemisphere saying how Kalkstein is a quack and the EPA are fools for supporting it.

    Then comes (grudging) acceptance…

    5 or 7 posts from those same people offering some form of acceptance… the rest silently reserved while they put their heads back together… ;)

  56. Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    You forgot “bargaining”. They’re gonna try to say hyperthermia happens regardless of fans, or something along those lines.

    “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Expat together again.”

  57. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Better watch that expat-bashing, The Korean. K-blog expat fans have swooned over your blog posts on racism and other topics.

  58. Mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    WangKon936: “5 or 7 posts from those same people offering some form of acceptance…”

    Nonsense. There’s nothing of substance to either accept or reject. Just theoretical suppositions and a complete lack of evidence. Call in the myth busters.

  59. Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Yes…

    Plus lots of accusations of being a wanker, tool, kimcheerleader… what else have I been ca… uh I mean that they’ll call you…?

  60. kimchi2000 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    the korean
    i agree with sonagi, u better watch it.
    korean and gyopo bashing is okay and often encouraged in k-blogsphere but expat bashing and sometime japanese bashing is big no-no.

  61. Mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    “Unless you are ready to dismiss NPR, Kalkstein and all the places he worked for (EPA, NOAA, NWS), this stuff is pretty convincing.”

    With that kind of logic, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in too.

  62. Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Methinks the expat and gyopo community can still safely ridicule most Koreans on this issue (and I for one, will happily do so with hat uneaten).

    Basically this climatologist is saying that ‘fan death’ can occur in the following conditions:
    1). Temperatures are over 99 degrees
    2). A person is already one step away from death’s door

    Seriously, a 70+ year old sleeping in a room that is over 99 degrees WITHOUT a fan (or any other form of cooling) could be just as likely to wake up dead.

    Elderly people drop like flies in heat waves and unless some study comes along that shows that those with fans on and windows shut are more likely to croak than those with windows open (or without any fan going on), this information is not really doing much to support the common Korean views on fan death.

    Without such studies, even people with ‘Dr’ in front of their name are just speculating. We’ve already seen articles linked on this website quoting doctors who actually study human physiology saying that fan death was a crock. Why are so many people on this thread happy to take the speculation of a climatologist over the speculations of those in the medical field?

    Secondly, on the PDF linked, they only state that a window should be opened to let in cooler air from the outside to counter a potential increase in heat. This implies that if the air outside is NOT cooler, opening a window won’t do jack diddely shit. This is quite removed from the Korean beliefs on why a window should be opened (Fans burn up all the oxygen!)

    So maybe the only thing the good ‘doctor’ really has to say here is that the belief that running a fan in a really hot room will help you cool off is unfounded, and could actually do more harm than good to really old people.

    This is good information for all 70+ year-old readers on this blog (and thank you Sonagi, for finally recognizing this rapidly growing segment of Marmot Hole readers), and if Koreans had long been stating only this kind of information (or now as a result of this article begin to do so), then there would be no reason to mock.

    But we all know they go way beyond this. The common belief that needs to be ridiculed out them is that ANYONE sleeping in a room of ANY warm to hot temperature with the windows closed WILL die. And as a result of this article (and the average readers inability to analyze the actual information critically and intelligently, as evidenced on this thread) all the wacky beliefs of fan death in Korea will continue to thrive.

  63. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    #62: “Seriously, a 70+ year old sleeping in a room that is over 99 degrees WITHOUT a fan (or any other form of cooling) could be just as likely to wake up dead.”

    The temperature where you shouldn’t direct the flow of portable electric fans toward yourself is 90° Fahrenheit, not 99. In the unventilated concrete hot boxes many Koreans live in, it’s an easy temperature to reach in the summer.

    And nobody ever wakes up dead.

  64. gbnhj your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    WangKon makes a good point in #38 above. Even if one accepts the Dr. Kalkstein’s conclusions, both the conditions necessary and the actual at-risk population are very limited, yet fear of fan death exists among many persons who are not at all at risk, and/or in conditions that pose no danger.

    That said, I still do not believe that fans kill. For example, Dr. Kalkstein notes that fans contribute to a process of dehydration by increasing evaporation of bodily fluids, and it is the dehydration that kills.

    Yet, as bumfromkorea mentions above, several other factors also contribute: closed windows and doors, excessive heat conditions, age, general and/or immediate physical condition. One could as easily talk of ‘hot-room death’ or ‘window-and-door death’, as they are also necessary factors. To say that fans kill in these cases is simply inaccurate.

  65. Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Sonagi @ 57,

    I don’t know if “swooning” is the right word. If I remember correctly, my views of racism around the world did not exactly receive a ringing endorsement on this blog.

    But point taken, I should try to be nice to everyone. It’s been a hellish week at work and I’ve been too cranky.

    As a first step to that, I would not say anything to Mizar @ 61. But that does not mean I will stop laughing as I read.

  66. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “I haven’t been this giddy since…”

    Giddy over a cause of death? Shit, that’s as bad as Elgin. ;)

  67. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    #63 Read the PDF linked to see where they state the ‘99 degree’ number (page 38).

    And I’ll forgive you for taking the ‘wake up dead’ line literally if English is your second language.

  68. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I think Dr. Kalkstein came to Korea to talk about global warming, and someone ambushed him with a question about fan death. If you read the rest of the interview, the next two questions are about Dokdo and mad cow disease.

  69. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    #67: “#63 Read the PDF linked to see where they state the ‘99 degree’ number (page 38).”

    In #62 you said “Temperatures are over 99 degrees” but page 37 of the PDF says “when heat index temperatures exceed 99°f”. Temperature and heat index are not the same thing, but T=90 and Heat Index=99 can be the same if rel. humidity is around 60% or something like that.

    “And I’ll forgive you for taking the ‘wake up dead’ line literally if English is your second language.”

    Me so literal bad English speaker.

  70. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    holy jesus! thanks for letting me know about this, The Korean.

    And he’s from the University of Miami –while we’re on the subject of old people and hot weather).

    My old theory was that here in Korea, people used to warm their houses by putting warm coals under the floor, and sometimes carbon monoxide leaked into the room, and suffocated people, so in those days, it was good sense to crack a window before going to bed. Then, as technology changed and people started running water under the floors instead, that bit of “don’t forget to crack the window” folk wisdom floated around a bit, since it was no longer needed on cold nights, and eventually latched onto electric fans.

    Yeah, it’s only in the rare case of extreme heat and poor body-temperature control, and it’s still funny that, thanks to Kimchi, Koreans are more afraid of electric fans than of SARS. . . but that’s still quite a plate of crow to serve up.

  71. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    meanwhile, at Miami University. . .

    MU webmaster sends an e-mail:
    “Wow, Larry. . . your profile’s hits just spiked by 6000% because of some site in Korea. Lot of hits from Seoul and California. . . ”

    Dr. Kalkstein sends an e-mail back:
    “Yeah, I’m getting a lot of anti-fan e-mail, too, all saying the same thing. These people seem to hate Koreans for some reason. They call me a kimchi traitor. Do you mind taking my e-mail address off my profile for a week or so?”

  72. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    It’s hilarious to see the parody master Party Pooper get all huffy puffy about this post. I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek with the title and references to hat munching and the science of how fans kill. The good doctor’s supposition about how fans increase the risk of hyperthermia and accelerate dehydration are supported by other sources, which state that fans do actually increase heat stress at very high temperatures.

    So yes, Party Pooper and other present and former expats, we can all keep laughing at Koreans for thinking fans suffocate or cause hypothermia. Feel better?

  73. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    # 71 roboseyo,

    Dude… that was hilarious.

  74. Mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    @62 Scott “Elderly people drop like flies in heat waves…”

    There goes another one…

  75. Lazy_Contractor your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Ok, now that I have finally put my head back together… ;-)

    I gotta ask - under the very specific setting that the Doc provided as an example - what causes the death?

    No matter how you cut it - the HEAT causes the death.

    If the fan were removed from the equation, logic (to me) would dictate that the outcome would still remain the same.

    HEAT - EXTREME HEAT, as mentioned, would cause the death of an elderly victim!

    I believe the point of mentioning a fan is to show that fans will not help in situations of EXTREME HEAT. Fans cannot lower the temperature to a point where an elderly person is SAFE.

    Death is NOT by fan - but by EXTEME HEAT.

    However you set up the equation above (remove the fan from the equation, replace the elderly person with a younger person, or even opening the windows) - the cause of death still remains - the EXTREME HEAT - NOT the fan!

    If you remove the heat from the equation - the victim will not die (presuming old age doesn’t get ya).

    Just about every year I see news storyies from across the states where elderly people die in heat waves. Not once is a FAN listed as the cause of death - the heat is.

    To me it is still completely irrational to blame the fan OVER the heat in the cause of death.

    Someone call Mythbusters!

  76. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Puffy, yes. Huffy, debatable.

    And yes, I do feel better. Take away masses of Koreans believing and doing ridiculous things and what the hell else do bloggers in Korea have to talk about?

  77. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    #8, fan death doesn’t occur often in North America and Europe because those countries employ advanced technology called “venting”.

  78. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    @75,

    ok, let’s clear this up.

    Obviously heat is the necessary factor. But the right question is, does adding the fan increase the chance of hyperthermia? Dr. Kalkstein’s conclusion is yes.

    So we can suppose a situation in which there is extreme heat, and another situation in which there is extreme heat plus a fan. Since , according to the doc, the presence of a fan contributes to the possibility of hyperthermia, we can envision a situation in which the same person who would have died in a hot room with a fan would survive a hot room without a fan.

    In this sense, one could say the fan is a “cause” of that hyperthermia. Obviously it is not a sufficient cause, or even a necessary cause. But it could be a “cause” in a sense in which ordinary people use the word in an inexact, unscientific conversation.

  79. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Global Warming AND Fan Death… why not add something about unicorns and make it a trifecta?

  80. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Rob’s gonna plop himself on the ‘puter at 9-ish AM, rub the sleep from his eyes and say… what the hell? 80+ comments… new thread? Fan death is real? What the hell?

  81. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    @80, that’s hysterical. I would pay significant amount of money to see his expression.

    Don’t get mad Rob, I say this all out of love.

  82. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    “why not add something about unicorns and make it a trifecta?”

    ‘Cause Koreans don’t give a shit about unicorns. The holy trifecta for Koreans would be Fan Death, Mad Cow and Tangun… :P

  83. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    73: thanks wangkon.

    Scott: “Take away masses of Koreans believing and doing ridiculous things and what the hell else do bloggers in Korea have to talk about?”

    Imagine: all Koreans have come to their senses, no longer fear American beef, let responsibility for moral laxity of certain English teachers remain only on their individual heads, are no longer afraid to dress differently than their friends, [fill in your wet dream cultural change here] and finally have a sensible approach to education in general, and English education in particular. VANK has disbanded. All the North Korean spies fomenting Anti-Americanism have been caught, so all that remains is the normal sour-grapes anti-Americanism found in every non USA country.

    Expat bloggers all around Korea:

    “Boy, bbundaegi smells bad. Like, bad! I mean, like, socks. Or something.

    I’m lonely.

    Anybody wanna have lunch with me on Saturday? Leave your phone number in the comment section.

    OK? Really, I’m an OK dude. You’ll probably like me.

    We won’t eat bbundaegi. Boy that stuff smells bad!

    I saw this old lady yesterday, and man, she was so old! It was like, OOOOooooolllllddddd!”

  84. Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    @83, that’s quite a picture Roboseyo. You must draw that often :)

  85. Posted August 2, 2008 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    which part? the Koreans no longer giving expats ammo, or the lonely expats with nothing left to bitch about?

    so anyway. . . lunch? sometime? I guess you live in Cali, don’t you. sigh.

    I’m gonna have the truckstop breakfast at RMT in Itaewon. . . anybody?

    you seem like a cool person — I’ve read your blog. whoever you are.

    (snicker)

  86. nospam your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Common sense 101

    If I go to sleep in an oven and die, is the oven to blame?

    If I go to sleep in a convection oven and die, is the oven’s fan to blame?

    If I go to sleep in a freezer and die, is the freezer to blame?

    If I take a fan into the freezer with me before I sleep, is the fan to blame?

  87. John from Daejeon your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Okay all you doctors. If fans do kill those over 70, explain to me how every year there are countless reports of youngsters being offed under the same circumstances. Could it really be alcohol poisoning (dehydration) or is it really murder using the guise of a proven killer of the elderly under extremely hot conditions and the real killers are hoping that the police will not notice that the victim is under 30 and in perfect health?

    In more believable news, proof of water has been found on Mars.

  88. Mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    TheMadKorean:”But it could be a “cause” in a sense in which ordinary people use the word in an inexact, unscientific conversation.”

    That was quite a bit of eel wriggling. To what end exactly? To prove that even an idiotic folk myth can be made to seem a little less ridiculous if you rationalize it enough?

    Wouldn’t it be preferable to just admit that the whole rumor was a thoroughly absurd bit of pseudo-scientific withdoctory and progress to a modern outlook?

  89. Mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    “Scott: ‘Take away masses of Koreans believing and doing ridiculous things and what the hell else do bloggers in Korea have to talk about?’”

    A lot, I imagine. If that invisible wall Koreans have erected between themselves and the rest of the world, everyone, Koreans and non Koreans alike would be a lot more comfortable.

    Come to think of it, that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

    Tear down this wall!

  90. j your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    There’s water on Mars? WOOHOO I can go home now…….ummm I mean good for Mars.

    I am a earthling.

  91. Posted August 2, 2008 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Mizar… a wall? I thought you were Korean.

    Pretty easy for gyopos who have competent Korean language skills to climb over the wall…

  92. user-81 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    LOL, #90.

  93. Granfalloon your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Every Korean I’ve ever spoken to has told me that fan death results in death by suffocation, not heat exhaustion or hypothermia. In fact, I have been given three theories as to how suffocation results. I will list them for your amusement, reminding you that they were put to me in all seriousness:

    1. The circulating air moves too fast to be inhaled.
    2. The electrical components in the fan consume the oxygen in the room.
    3. (my favorite) The blades of the fan split O2 molecules into single atoms of oxygen, rendering them unbreathable.

    And all this time, it was actually thermal exhaustion that was the culprit! Better be careful next time you’re over 70 and in a heat wave and in a room with no ventilation and possibly drunk, because a fan might kill you.

  94. Posted August 2, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    and here I though fan death worked a bit more like this.

  95. Posted August 2, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    and here I thought fan death worked a bit more like this.

  96. Posted August 2, 2008 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    sorry about those dead links.

    and here I thought fan death ACTUALLY worked more like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRtymuRMZiE

  97. Posted August 2, 2008 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Mizar at @88, keep on doing that dance. It’s very entertaining.

  98. keith your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    #96 close, but I think this documentary explains the phenomena more accurately.

    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=8tOWO4XUT60

    &

    http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=.....re=related

  99. Posted August 2, 2008 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Now THIS is what I call fan death:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=related

  100. Mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Loved the links. BTW Granfalloon really lives up to his name in that hilarious post. I vaguely recalled the term from Cat’s Cradle, so I looked it up. Here’s what I found:

    “a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless. The most common granfalloons are associations and societies based on a shared but ultimately fabricated premise. As examples, Vonnegut cites: “the Communist Party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows—and any nation, anytime, anywhere.” A more general and oft-cited quote defines a granfalloon as “a proud and meaningless association of human beings.” Another granfalloon example illustrated in the book was Hoosiers, of which the narrator (and Vonnegut himself) was a member.

    If you wish to study a granfalloon, just remove the skin of a toy balloon.—Bokonon

    “My God,” she said, “are you a hoosier?”

    I admitted I was.

    “I’m a Hoosier, too,” she crowed. “Nobody has to be ashamed of being a Hoosier.”

    “I’m not,” I said. “I never knew anybody who was.”

  101. Granfalloon your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    It’s been my mantra for quite a while, Mizar5. Rest in peace, Mr. Vonnegut.

  102. Tripod your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    #86,

    Yes, blaming the fan is like blaming the angle of a hill because some out-of-shape slob died of a heart attack while climbing it.

  103. Tripod your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    “Obviously heat is the necessary factor. But the right question is, does adding the fan increase the chance of hyperthermia? Dr. Kalkstein’s conclusion is yes.”

    Yes, but what the article doesn’t address is the amount of importance that he places on the presence of the fan. I’m certain it isn’t as much as Korean reporters will gleefully suggest.

  104. seoulk your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Clarification on the earlier thing(post 14).

    I didn’t mean why isn’t the person drinking water right that instant– I meant why aren’t they hydrating, in a general sense. Like, sometime before bed.

    I was also presumptive enough to assume that if technology permits a fan, it also allows for a screen or mosquito net in the window.

  105. captbbq your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    If a fan is run inside an enclosed room where the indoor temperature is high, the heat is concentrated on the person,

    There you have it folks, a “climate scientist” who knows not of Bernoulli’s principle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B....._principle

    In all honesty it boils down to the fact that Koreans tend to not be hydrated enough, and fan or no fan Elderly + Enclosed space + hot = high risk of death. In such an environment the single most important thin you can do is keep drinking 7-11 big gulps size serving of water, and when you sweat have a fan blow directly on you.

    In all honesty if you are elderly, staying in am enclosed space and its high heat

  106. abcdefg your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Let’s call it the “fan death fallacy”. Interesting how it works whereby an incidental component in a process or event is misidentified as a primary cause.

    Ever walk through a library or some place with heavy carpeting and then touch a metal door knob? I always get static shock. One of these days I’m going to die by such a shock in a freak accident. My grieving family shall call it library-door death.

  107. Mizar5 your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    In summary, it was reported by a suspect source, translating from a foreign language, that someone with irrelevant but impressive-sounding credentials, lacking any scientific evidence, allegedly offered a plausible-sounding explanation to suggest that it could be conjectured that an unproven folk phenomenon might lie within the infinite realm of theoretical possibility.

    Convincing enough for the superstitious mind. So shy bother to report the real facts that not a scintilla of evidence exists and that not a single case has ever been identified?

    Ridiculous as the myth itself is, what is more absurd is the lengths to which that superstitious minds will go to rationalize it.

  108. Mrs. Linkd your flag
    Posted August 2, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Baby Linkd is now snug as a bug in her crib in the back room, the baby monitor crackling away, letting me know that her fan is still whirring.

    The window is most definitely closed. Most of you heard that rain earlier…
    Is there any Korean version of the children’s aid society ready to come after me? Is this not child endangerment?

  109. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 3, 2008 at 2:32 am | Permalink

    Psst, I’ll let you in on a secret, Mrs. Linkd. I was actually sitting in an enclosed room with TWO fans running when I typed that post. Since I’m decades away from senior citizenship, I don’t think I’ll wake up dead one morning.

  110. adeline your flag
    Posted August 3, 2008 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    why would anyone use a fan with the window closed? That’s just dumb, if tons of people were doing that I could see it being a problem, where I’m from it often gets above 110 so if we never opened a window me might all be dead too.

  111. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 3, 2008 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Temperature control. Early in the morning and in the evening when the temperature is cooler outside than inside I put one fan facing in on the coolest side of the apartment and one facing out on the warmest side and run them at high speed. This pulls in cool air and pushes out warm air. During the day I keep the windows and blinds closed to keep in the cooler air. If the thermometer moves into the 90s, I use my air conditioner, but on most days I can get by without it. My combined electric bill for May and June was $70. Conservation pays.

  112. Posted August 3, 2008 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Well, if electric fans can sometimes actually contribute to some deaths by dehydration in extremely hot weather, then so-called “fan death” has a kernal of truth.

    But I am still skeptical.

    Did anybody quote Professor Kalkstein in English to see precisely what he said? My wife drew my attention to his remarks, but the quotes were in Korean, so I wondered if the translation of his remarks from English into Korean were being subtly influenced by Korean beliefs about fan death.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  113. Sonagi your flag
    Posted August 3, 2008 at 7:51 am |