Study Reveals That 90% of Saunas are Unsafe

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A three-year study carried out by the National Building Review Board (NBRB) has revealed that nine out of 10 saunas and steam baths across the country could explode anytime since they are using firewood where the pressure regulation is done manually, posing a health risk.

According to the safety guidelines released by NBRB on Monday, November 6, 2023, the water pressure at a steam bath should be between 15 (1 bar) and 20 pounds per square inch (PSI) (1.4 bars), and if necessary, further decreased accordingly.

The study, which covered seven districts of Kampala, Kabale, Mbarara, Jinja, Mbale, Iganga, and Wakiso, examined 21 health clubs with a special focus on steam and sauna heating equipment and all related gear and found that people in saunas are at a high risk of losing their lives due to explosions because they lack safety measures to control pressure and temperature.

NBRB’s Executive Secretary, Flavia Gutto Bwiire, while speaking at the release of the findings at their headquarters, said that the unsafe installations with no monitoring devices for temperature, pressure, and control mechanisms increased the risks of explosions and fire outbreaks in the health clubs.

The study was commissioned in 2021 following two incidents where saunas exploded in September 2019, where at least five people sustained injuries at Marco’s Gym and Spa in Kira municipality, and another in July 2021 in Kayumga village in Wakiso district, which claimed two lives.

“The investigation revealed that the cause of the explosion was high pressure resulting from overheating in the steam tank, which had no pressure release mechanism. The pressure buildup at the time of the explosion was simulated and found to be 272% of the installed capacity,” Bwiire said.

The high rise in pressure was associated with an unregulated change in temperature of up to 320 degrees, according to the study.

The study therefore recommends the use of electric devices since electric steam and hot water generators are manufactured with standardised precautionary measures against system overloads.

Health clubs are supposed to have a hydropneumatic device that helps in reducing pressure or install a stop value in the accessible area of the water supply line.

However, according to the guidelines, the tap water contains impurities like lime that can cause calcium deposits that block the internal parts of the steam generator, and it is recommended to install a water filter and softener to stop the blockages.

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