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Himalayan salt lamps are popular for their vibrant pink hue, organic shapes, and much-touted health benefits. Advocates say they produce negative ions in the air, improving air quality and exuding a calming energy in your living space.

While the lamps are considered safe in general, there are a couple of risks you should understand if you want to use one in your home. Keep reading to learn more about these lamps and how to use them safely.

Himalayan salt lamps are chunks of salt rock illuminated by electric light bulbs. Lots of people find their distinctive sunset-like glow quietly calming and aesthetically pleasing.

Some say the lamps purify the air and provide health benefits such as lifting your mood, enhancing sleep, and improving breathing conditions. The basic idea is that the lamps change the ionization of the air around you, alleviating allergy symptoms and helping to balance your mood.

While there’s some evidence that negative ions, in large enough amounts, may improve some health conditions, researchers say the negative ions around salt lamps aren’t concentrated enough to provide noticeable health benefits.

Although there isn’t much science to support health claims, the lamps do remain a popular decorative item, so it’s important to understand what risks they pose in household use.

Electrical hazards

Any electrical device poses a fire hazard if its wiring is defective or damaged or if the product is used incorrectly.

In January 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a recall for salt lamps that presented a risk of fire because their dimmer switches were defective and prone to overheating. Around 80,000 lamps sold under the brand name Lumiere were included in that recall.

In May of the same year, another 3,900 Lumiere salt lamps were again recalled for the same fire hazard. If you own an older salt lamp, you might want to be sure your lamp isn’t included in either of those recalls.

Danger to children

Genuine salt lamps can be quite heavy — up to 80 pounds for some of the showpiece models. Heavy objects on high shelves may pose a risk to children because they can topple off shelves, injuring anyone standing or sitting beneath them.

To prevent the rock lamps from falling and injuring a child, it’s a good idea to place them well out of reach of children (and pets), on a piece of furniture that’s secure and stable.

Corrosion

Genuine salt lamps draw moisture from the air, which can cause water to condense on the lamp’s surface. If your lamp is turned on, its warmth will cause the water to evaporate.

But if your lamp is not warm, the water may trickle onto the lamp’s base or the furniture underneath it. If either surface is metal, the water could cause corrosion. If the surface is made of wood, the moisture could warp or stain the wood.

While this kind of corrosion isn’t a health risk, it’s wise to check the position of the bulb inside the lamp to be sure it isn’t touching the rock itself. The bulb should be cradled inside a cavity in the rock, well away from the rock’s edges, to reduce condensation.

Danger to pets: salt toxicity

Himalayan salt lamps may be dangerous for the pets in your home, because both dogs and cats can be harmed by ingesting too much salt.

Veterinarians warn that cats may be in particular danger because they can climb onto shelves and tables to lick the lamps. One or two tastes probably wouldn’t harm a cat, but repetitive licking could lead to salt toxicity.

If your cat is has licked your salt lamp to excess, symptoms of salt toxicity might include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • drowsiness
  • seizures
  • death

To prevent accidental salt toxicity, place your salt lamp in a spot your cat or dog can’t access.

Genuine Himalayan salt lamps are mined from the Kewhra (Mayo) salt mine, one of the oldest and largest mines in the Punjab region of Pakistan. Salt from these mines has a distinctive pink radiance, often with white or darker red banding.

When purchasing a salt lamp, look for labeling that indicates where the lamp was made.

Authentic lamps aren’t shiny and their glow is soft and muted. Shiny-surfaced lamps that emit a bright shine are probably not made of Himalayan salt. Because they’re made of salt, authentic lamps can chip or break if you drop them. Fake lamps are more resistant to damage.

A quick moisture test: Your lamp should sweat in moist environments. When you wipe a genuine salt lamp with a damp cloth, you should see some pink mineral residue on the cloth.

When you’re buying a lamp, choose an authentic product that bears a UL safety sticker indicating that the wiring has been inspected for safety. The dimmer switch and wiring should be secure, not loose. It’s a good idea to make sure the bulb isn’t touching any part of the rock.

Consider the safety of children and pets when you’re deciding where to place the lamp in your home. The surface should be stable, secure, and out of reach of even the most curious of cats.

Turn your lamp on daily to be sure water doesn’t accumulate.

Himalayan salt lamps, with their warm, salmon-colored glow and rough-hewn appearance, are popular decorative items.

Some say they improve air quality, deepen sleep, and elevate your mood. These health benefits haven’t yet been confirmed by research — and little is known about what risks, if any, they may pose.

The most immediate known risk came from lamps with faulty dimmer switches, which were recalled because they could overheat and ignite.

Another possible risk is related to the hefty weight of some lamps. If placed on a wobbly surface, heavy lamps could fall and injure small children. Pets — especially cats — are in danger of salt toxicity if they frequently lick the lamps.

To avoid these issues, make sure you’re using a lamp with properly certified wiring. Place the lamps well out of reach on a stable shelf. And choose a lamp that’s made from genuine Pakistani salt, from a reputable manufacturer.

Whether you’re buying a Himalayan salt lamp for its natural beauty or its reputed health benefits, making sure that the product is safe and secure will enhance your enjoyment.