Standards Matter
February 23, 2024

Reducing the Risk of Fuel-Alcohol Burns With UL 1370

Wall-mounted decorative fireplace.

Roughly every minute in the US, someone sustains a burn injury significant enough to require emergency medical treatment. This works out to an estimated 486,000 people being treated for burns annually. This includes 109,500 children – 26% of the annual figure for burns presented here. 

73% of those injuries treated at a burn center occur in the home. Taking away the eight percent that occur in a work environment, a fraction of the remaining 19% of burns occur in other locations where fire injury would be presumed such as campgrounds or forests. Ultimately, this means that special attention must be given to decorative devices that produce flames.  

Though the causes of these burns are many, fire still takes the lead in burn injuries, accounting for almost half. 

Newly popular devices among many U.S. consumers are a variety of unvented, alcohol-burning appliances such as table-mounted ethanol stoves and decorative fireplaces, following a trend previously seen in restaurants and lounges. This has prompted the American Burn Association to highlight these devices and the liquids that power them for 2024 National Burn Awareness week. 

Why It Matters 

On frosty winter days, an alcohol-burning accessory can be a nice addition to many outdoor activities. The convenience of not requiring firewood alone is enough to make these devices attractive to consumers looking to add the feel of a campfire to their gathering or even roast marshmallows. These devices are also incredibly efficient in both fuel use and heat generated, while using cost-efficient alcohol for fuel, adding to their allure. 

However, the very feature that makes these devices attractive and efficient can swiftly cause significant injury or even death. If spilled, alcohol quickly soaks into clothes and skin, and if ignited, deep tissue burns can be the result. These fires can be difficult to extinguish due to their intensity, and although water can be an effective extinguishing agent, it takes time and often spreads the fire prior to diluting the alcohol enough to extinguish it.  

These devices can be manufactured to help mitigate these risks and allow for safe use in the home, and UL 1370, Unvented Alcohol Burning Appliances was published to establish requirements to bridge the gap between safety and style.  

What We’re Doing 

UL 1370 sets testing and manufacturing requirements that can be verified by independent, nationally recognized testing laboratories. The standard also includes potential misuse scenarios in the testing to ensure that many potential situations are accounted for and properly mitigated. 

One notable requirement involves the construction of the fuel reservoir and combustion chamber. Not only are there requirements for the orientation of the reservoir, but also for the maximum size allowed, which is 2.6 gallons with a sheet steel construction of no less than .042 inches thick to allow for maximum protection against penetration and leakage. Further, the reservoir must also limit the amount of fuel loaded into the combustion chamber at any given time while not allowing fuel to spill onto any part of the device that would cause fire outside of the combustion area. 

Further containing and directing the fuel is the piping and tubing system throughout the device. The standard includes requirements for these too, starting with their construction of wrought iron or full-weight steel. Brass or copper is allowed, but all places where pipe is joined must use a ground-type or equivalent union. The tubing and piping must also be seamless and treated to resist corrosion to ensure the elements don’t cause leakage within the structure. 

What all this means for the consumer is we're looking at every detail to reduce the risk of burns and take it off their worry list.

What You Can Do 

Consumers should look for – and only buy – products certified to meet safety standards by independent, third-party testing laboratories.                                                                                                                                                                
At ULSE, our standards are developed using a fair, transparent process. We convene committees of experts who work collaboratively to share their knowledge to guide the publication of standards that optimize safety, security, and sustainability. As a result, consumers can trust that products meeting our standards are designed and built to mitigate risks and hazards such as fire and electric shock.  

Learn more about the safety, security and sustainability issues our organization is working to address at   

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