October 4, 2001
CPSC Urges Seasonal Furnace Inspection to Prevent CO2
- CPSC Urges Seasonal Furnace Inspection to Prevent CO Poisonings
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the weather turns colder throughout much of the
country, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers
to have a professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances - including
furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, clothes dryers, water heaters and space
heaters - to detect deadly carbon monoxide (CO) leaks.
These appliances burn fuels - typically gas, both natural and liquefied
petroleum; kerosene; oil; coal; and wood. Under certain conditions, these
appliances can produce deadly CO. However, with proper installation and
maintenance, they are safe to use. An annual inspection and service is the
first line of defense against this silent killer.
CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. The initial
symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to flu, and include headache, fatigue,
shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.
Exposure to high levels of CO can cause death."Each year, CO poisoning
associated with using fuel-burning appliances kills about 200 people," said
CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. "Having this inspection performed could prevent a
CPSC recommends that the yearly professional inspection include checking
chimneys, flues and vents for leakage and blockage by debris. Birds, insects
and other animals sometimes nest in vents and block exhaust gases, causing
the gases to enter the home. Leakage through cracks or holes could cause
black stains on the outside of the chimney or flue. These stains and strange
smells can mean that pollutants are leaking into the house. In addition,
have all vents to furnaces, water heaters, boilers and other fuel-burning
appliances checked to make sure they are not loose or disconnected.
Have your appliances inspected for gas leaks and adequate ventilation. A
supply of fresh air is important to help carry pollutants up the chimney,
stovepipe or flue, and is necessary for the complete combustion of any fuel.
Never block ventilation air openings. Also, make sure the appliance is
operating on the fuel that it is designed to use. An appliance must be
modified by a professional to burn propane.
CPSC recommends that every home should have at least one CO alarm that meets
the requirements of the most recent Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2034
standard or International Approval Services 6-96 standard. CPSC worked with
UL to improve the CO alarm standard to improve the reliability of alarms,
and reduce the potential for nuisance alarming.
Consumers should also have the vent pipes on their heating systems
inspected. In 1998, CPSC worked with the furnace and boiler industry and the
manufacturers of high-temperature plastic vent (HTPV) pipes to conduct a
vent pipe recall program. The program's purpose is to replace, free of
charge, an estimated 250,000 HTPV pipe systems attached to gas or propane
furnaces or boilers in consumers' homes. The HTPV pipes could crack or
separate at the joints and leak CO. Consumers should call the recall hotline
toll-free at (800) 758-3688, between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET, seven days a
week, to verify that their appliance
venting systems are subject to this program.
CPSC continues to work with the furnace industry to develop new technologies
to address the hazards of CO poisoning and fire.
Results include a standard that added blocked-vent shut-off
devices to protect against blocked vent pipes and chimneys, and requirements
to guard against a vent pipe becoming separated from the furnace. Both of
these conditions could lead to CO poisonings. Also, all gas-fired furnaces
manufactured since 1987 have flame roll-out protection technology that
prevents flames from shooting out of the furnace's combustion chamber and
starting a fire.