The CPSC has issued the following warning as part of its mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Carbon monoxide poisoning has been associated with indoor heating appliances under certain conditions. Some 15,000 products fall within the Commission's jurisdiction, and each year these products are involved in an estimated 30 million injuries and 22,000 deaths. Although many of these deaths are not directly related, the potential of carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious risk to one's health.

CONTENTS
Alert to CO
Inspection

 

 

Inspect Home Furnace System For Hazards, Carbon Monoxide

WASHINGTON, DC -- Government safety experts are urging homeowners to have central heating systems inspected now to correct any hazards or problems before the brunt of the winter heating season.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a qualified heating contractor should inspect the home heating system annually. Checks should be made of the furnace or boiler, and its electrical and mechanical components, thermostat controls and automatic safety switches.

CPSC noted that while chimneys and flues are not normally checked by heating contractors, consumers should ask them to include the venting systems in their inspection. Of concern are possible blockages caused by mortar and other material dislodged from chimney walls, and bird nests and debris which prevent toxic gases from escaping. Chimneys and flues should be clear at all times to allow for the release of toxic flue gases, especially carbon monoxide. The contractor should also check flues and flue connectors for tight, secure fittings, and signs of rust or cracks that could allow toxic gases to enter the home.

Consumers should be alert to carbon monoxide (CO) gas in the home, CPSC added. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. People exposed to harmful levels of the gas often show symptoms similar to flu-like illnesses, including dizziness, fatigue, headaches, irregular breathing and nausea.

CPSC estimates that there were 57 carbon monoxide deaths in 1986 from gas-fired furnaces, and 14 involving oil-fueled furnaces. The agency said inspection of home heating systems is important to reduce the risk of death.  (A more recent review claims CO as the leading cause of more than 15,000 accidental poisoning deaths in the United States each year and another 10,000 injuries according to the Carbon Monoxide Medical Association)

Chimney inspections are especially important where oil or coal heating systems have been converted to gas. After the conversion, accumulated soot and debris in the chimney could block the escape of carbon monoxide fumes and cause the toxic gases to enter the home.

CPSC said a chimney sweep should be summoned to clean the chimney if the fall inspection reveals an accumulation of soot on chimney walls. Chimneys should be checked and cleaned annually until no additional soot is found. Homeowners converting to gas from oil should have the chimney inspected at the time of the conversion, then yearly thereafter.

The CPSC is the Federal agency responsible for product safety, and is issuing this warning as part of its mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury and death associated with consumer products. Some 15,000 products fall within the Commission's jurisdiction and each year these products are involved in an estimated 30 million injuries and 22,000 deaths.

 

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Office of Information and Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20207
November 14, 1990

 

The information provided on this page is based upon the CPSC's current scientific and technical understanding of the issues presented. Following the advice given will not necessarily provide complete protection in all situations or against all health hazards that may be caused by indoor air pollution and other indoor environmental contaminants.  The CPSC has not necessarily reviewed or approved all of the information and documents on indoor air quality that may be provided by other groups or organizations.

 
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