Fan Death

Apparently, there is a widespread belief in South Korea that sleeping all night with a fan blowing directly on a person can be fatal. The Wikipedia entry and entry about fan death are fascinating looks at how easily urban legends gain traction even in contemporary, technological societies.

No other culture appears to regard its electric fans with trepidation, yet the belief that these air circulating devices are capable of killing in their sleep even adult men is rampant among Koreans. It doesn’t help that the Korean media continues to report “fan deaths,” citing this form of demise every time an otherwise healthy-appearing individual is found dead in his bed.

As to how seriously the threat of fan death is taken in South Korea, fan users there are cautioned to always leave a window open to counter the otherwise deadly effects. Korea’s largest fan manufacturing concern, Shinil Industrial Co., issues warnings with its products telling customers to keep fans pointed away from people at night. “This product may cause suffocation or hypothermia,” the warning reads. The Korea Consumer Protection Board advises that “Doors should be left open when sleeping with the electric fan or air conditioner turned on. If bodies are exposed to electric fans or air conditioners for too long, it causes bodies to lose water and hypothermia.” Many fans sold in South Korea are equipped with timers so people don’t fall asleep with the units running all night. Fan death fear is so prevalent that some Korean drivers have made it their practice to open car windows a crack before operating their vehicles’ air conditioners.

This, of course, would never gain traction in the United States where we prefer to believe myths like “water boarding is not torture” or “Lindsey Lohan’s latest escapades are news.”

For the record, I regularly sleep with a fan pointed at me in a closed room and have yet to suffer ill effects for it. On the other hand, I think my cat is trying to suffocate me.

The Independent: Greatest Threat to Journalism Since Polio

The Independent has a profile of Eminem’s publicity for his upcoming new album which include this claim,

As his fame grew, Eminem became a magnet for controversy. He was accused of glorifying misogyny, homophobia, bad language and violence. He was arrested on gun charges. On one occasion, George Bush, upset by his lack of respect for the forces of conservatism, labelled him: “The greatest threat to America’s children since polio.”

How stupid is the reporter who wrote that? That has urban legend written all over it. And, per Snopes,

Given that:

  • None of these articles [from 2001 when the quote first appears] contains any details about when (or where, or under what circumstances) President Bush allegedly described Eminem as “the most dangerous threat to American children since polio.”
  • All of the articles containing this putative quote come from newspapers published in the UK.
  • We haven’t yet turned up even a single article from a U.S. newspaper which includes this quote (other than brief references to its having been mentioned in British newspapers), even though President Bush and Eminem are both Americans and major media figures.

We’re guessing that this was a spurious “quote” fabricated by someone for publicity purposes (nothing piques curiosity about a person more than the President’s declaring him to be a dangerous enemy), or to poke fun at President Bush. Since no one else has been able to verify the authenticity of this quote, we’re assigning it a “False” rating.

Many of us who live in the United States can remember the withering criticism directed at George H. Bush for his moronic statements about The Simpsons. If George W. Bush had really said something as stupid as that, it would have been major news in the United States.