September 23, 1999
CPSC Urges Seasonal Furnace Inspection
Hundreds Die Each Year from CO Poisonings
WASHINGTON, D.C. (SafetyAlerts)
- As the home heating season approaches, 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 and space heaters -- to detect
deadly carbon monoxide (CO) leaks.
"CO poisoning associated with using
fuel-burning appliances kills more than 200 people each year and sends more than 10,000 to
hospital emergency rooms for treatment," said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown.
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, but with proper installation and maintenance, are
safe to use.
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.
CPSC recommends that the yearly, professional
inspection include checking chimneys, flues and vents for leakage and blockage by creosote
and debris. Leakage through cracks or holes could cause black stains on the outside of the
chimney or flue. These stains can mean that pollutants are leaking into the house. Also,
have all vents to furnaces, water heaters, boilers and other fuel-burning appliances
checked to make sure they are not loose or disconnected.
Make sure your appliances are inspected for
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.
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
recently completed work 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, virtually the entire furnace and boiler industry
together with the manufacturers of high-temperature plastic vent (HTPV) pipes joined with
CPSC to announce a vent pipe corrective action 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 can check the vent pipes attached to
their natural gas or propane furnaces or boilers to determine if they are part of this
recall. They can be identified as follows: the vent pipes are plastic; the vent pipes are
colored gray or black; and the vent pipes have the names "Plexvent?,"
"Plexvent?II" or "Ultravent?" stamped on the vent pipe or printed on
stickers placed on pieces used to connect the vent pipes together. Consumers should also
check the location of these vent pipes. For furnaces, only HTPV systems that have vent
pipes that go through the sidewalls of structures (horizontal systems) are subject to this
program. For boilers, all HTPV systems are subject to this program. Other plastic vent
pipes, such as white PVC or CPVC, are not involved in this program.
After checking the vent pipes, consumers should
call the Corrective Action Program 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. Consumers with eligible systems will receive new, professionally installed
venting systems free of charge. Additionally, consumers who already have replaced their
HTPV pipe systems may be eligible for reimbursement for some or all of the replacement
Safety Alerts compiles comprehensive safety
recall information for the United States. SafeMail is a free email service to warn
consumers of faulty products and contaminated foods. For complete information regarding
current recalls, past recalls and timely product warning notification visit: www.safetyalerts.com.
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