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Regulator warns carbon monoxide deaths from power generators, heating systems increasing

*The US-based Consumer Product Safety Commission cautions that carbon monoxide, especially from gas-powered generators and heating systems poses a significant threat to consumers’ health and well-being

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

In a move to protect consumers’ well-being, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in the United States (US), has warned the fatalities resulting from particularly gas generators and heating systems are on the rise.

It is noted that with no smell or smoke, carbon monoxide poses a significant threat to consumers’ health and well-being.

The market regulator also disclosed the gas generators and heating systems are two of the biggest culprits.

While CO detectors play an important role in both public and private spaces, a new report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission is urging consumers to be more aware of the risks of the invisible gas, agency report said.

The report looked at CO-related deaths from 2009 through 2019 and found that in 2019, there were roughly 250 related fatalities – a figure far higher than any other year in the report.

Because of this upward trajectory in recent years, the CPSC hopes to spread awareness of the risks of CO.

Know what devices pose the biggest risk

The report analysed CO-related deaths over the course of a decade, breaking down the cause of each one.

The factors include space heaters, pool heaters, ranges and ovens, grills and camp stoves.

Ultimately, engine-driven tools proved to be the biggest risk when it came to CO-related fatalities. Over the course of the entire study, these devices were responsible for the largest number of such deaths – 118 in 2019 alone, and 50 percent of all such deaths on average.

Of these devices, gas-powered generators were associated with the greatest CO risk.

Fatalities linked to these devices went as high as 89 in 2017, and accounted for 36% of all CO-related deaths on average.

Heating systems, and more specifically furnaces, were the second biggest CO risk. Heating systems of all kinds accounted for nearly 30% of CO-related deaths, while furnaces were responsible for 10%. Portable heaters are another CO risk, as these devices were also linked to 10% of all related deaths.

Applying best practices

Just because these devices pose a risk regarding CO, that doesn’t mean consumers need to avoid them entirely. Instead, the CPSC hopes this report encourages consumers to take their safety more seriously when using potentially dangerous devices.

To ensure that heating products are used for their primary purpose – keeping spaces warm – and not unintentionally poisoning consumers with CO, proper cleaning and maintenance of vents and all heating devices on a yearly basis is recommended.

This goes for wood stoves, furnaces, fireplaces, chimneys and boilers.

When it comes to portable generators, consumers should never use these devices inside the home. That goes for the basement, crawl space, attached garage, or shed. Twenty feet from the home is the recommended distance when using these devices. Additionally, a portable generator with a CO safety shut-off feature is recommended to ensure that emissions never get to dangerous levels.

CO detector testing

Recently, a few brands of CO detectors commonly purchased on Amazon were found to be defective, report noted. Without a properly functioning carbon monoxide detector, consumers are significantly increasing their risk for CO poisoning or death.

Consumers should regularly check that their CO detectors are working and well-maintained and always have extra batteries on hand in case of emergencies.

CO detectors should be found on every floor of the home, as well as outside of every sleeping area.

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