Question
Mon September 12, 2011 By:

WHY DOES STEAM CAUSES MORE BURNS THAN BOILING WATER?

Expert Reply
Mon September 12, 2011

Steam and boiling water are both the same temperature (100 degrees). However, since steam is a gas the particles are further apart and move active. They therefore contain more energy. It is this potential energy that makes steam so much more dangerous than water. Another important fact is that steam condenses very quickly because when it is cooled it first has to lose its potential energy. Boiling water and steam both have the same temperature but they do not have the same thermal energy (heat). Whenever vapor comes into contact with skin, the vapor condensates and changes to a liquid. What this means is: the molecules are going from high movement (and energy) to lower movement (and energy) as a liquid. The energy (heat) is being lost in the transition from gas to liquid. Heat is being released as a result of the state change. The change is an exothermic reaction; heat is given off. So, the steam has more thermal energy than the boiling water and that’s why it is more dangerous.

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