October 1, 2002
CPSC Urges Seasonal Heating Systems
Inspections to Prevent CO Deaths
- 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 heating systems - including
furnaces, boilers, fireplaces, water heaters and space heaters - to detect
potentially deadly carbon monoxide (CO) leaks.
Under certain conditions, all appliances that burn fuels can leak deadly CO.
These fuels include kerosene; oil; coal; both natural and liquefied
petroleum gas; and wood.
"Having a professional inspection of your fuel-burning heating appliances is
the first line of defense against the silent killer, carbon monoxide
poisoning," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton.
CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can be 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 from heating systems and water heaters kills about
160 people in the U.S.," said Stratton. "Many of these tragedies could be
prevented by having a professional check your heating system and water
heater annually for CO leaks."
CPSC recommends that the yearly professional inspection include checking
chimneys, flues and vents for leakage and blockage by debris. Birds, other
animals and insects sometimes nest in vents and block exhaust gases, causing
the gases to enter the home. In addition, all vents to furnaces, water
heaters, boilers and other fuel-burning heating appliances should be checked
to make sure they are not loose or disconnected.
Also, 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. To convert an appliance to
burn propane, it must be modified by a professional.
CPSC recommends that every home have at least one CO alarm that meets one of
these standards: Canadian Standards Association 6.19-01, 2001; Underwriters
Laboratories Inc. 2034, Second Edition, October 1998; or the International
Approval Services 6-96, Second Edition, June 1, 1998.
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 HTPV pipe
recall hotline toll-free at (800) 758-3688, between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET,
seven days a week, to verify whether 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 voluntary
furnace standard that added blocked-vent shut-off devices to protect against
blocked vent pipes and chimneys, and vented heater 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 spilling out of the furnace's combustion chamber and
starting a fire.
Send the link for this page to a friend! The U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission protects the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death
from 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To
report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, call CPSC's hotline
at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270, or visit
CPSC's web site at www.cpsc.gov/talk.html. Consumers can obtain this release
and recall information at CPSC's web site at www.cpsc.gov.