From a chemistry point of view I would like to learn about possible hazards of fog machines.

Such devices, also called “foggers”, create vapor which appears like fog or smoke. It is used in discos, parties, etc. It works by heating “fog juices” which are made of glycerine and distilled/de-ionized water mix or propylene glycol and distilled water mix. I don't know the temperature these mixes are heated by the machines.

I know glycerine and propylene glycol are not hazardous, but I would like to know if heating them can pose any risk. I've talked with someone who works in this industry and he couldn't tell if there has been any study to show if the fog produced by these foggers is harmful or not. So even though these devices have existed for years I would still like to know if they can be harmful and if they should be avoided when possible.

How you can help as chemist is by telling me if vaporizing glycerine and distilled water mix at certain temperature can cause any change to the supposedly harmful substance and make it dangerous or not.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not sure that StackExchange is a good forum to seek advice that could potentially put the person who answers in a legal spot. I would suggest writing to the manufacturer of the fog machine. $\endgroup$ – Eric Brown Jun 1 '14 at 1:22
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    $\begingroup$ @AwalGarg Indeed it is chemistry, but could you imagine a circumstance where someone answered "there's no danger with fog machines!" and then someone read this and went and did something stupid, and someone got hurt/killed, then you can bet there would be serious repercussions. I downloaded five PDFs of fog machine operating instructions, and each of them had at least TWO PAGES of warnings and disclaimers. There is no way an answer given here (even given by a fog machine expert) will cover all these bases. And, what if there are harmful effects after all? Are we running clinical trials? $\endgroup$ – Eric Brown Jun 6 '14 at 3:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Eric I think the assessment of hazards is well on topic here. if we just state where possibly security risks lie, I don't see where we can go wrong. After all, yes, an answer should never say: This is safe. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン Dec 14 '15 at 9:25

Given that these machines have been used extensively in the entertainment industry for decades, and one (Rosco Fogger) even has an Academy Award, common sense says that they aren't dangerous.

Breathing in copious quantities of the fog causes irritation, but that applies to a lot of things. Dry ice fog[1] is basically water vapour - fill the room with it and you die from asphyxiation from the CO2

  1. looks better in many cases as it's "fog" and not "smoke"

Extreme heating of glycerine produces acrolein, which is toxic and highly irritating (I'd say it should be also carcinogenic, but was unable to find any suggestions for it with quick googling). However, the heating should be extreme or an acidic catalyst is needed. Extreme heating of 1,2 propylene glycol will produce propanal, that is also toxic, but not that much as acrolein.

Free glycerol and 1,2 propylene glycol are slightly toxic, but their LD50 are high. (>10 g/ kg), so nothing special.

  • $\begingroup$ what do you mean by extreme heating? $\endgroup$ – user5714 Jun 1 '14 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @user5714 Preparative acidic catalysed dehydration occurs at ~200C. Without catalyst glycerol boils without decomposition at 290 C. Out of blue, I'd say that somewhere aroun 500-900 C the dehydration will proceed anyway, but can't give a proof just now $\endgroup$ – permeakra Jun 2 '14 at 4:15

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