Using Portable Propane Heaters Improperly Could Lead to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning According to CampSafe.org

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According to Campsafe.org, a camping and propane product safety web site, portable propane heaters have become a popular choice for providing temporary relief from sub-freezing temperatures, especially in areas hit by winter storms and power outages. Consumers should make sure they are selecting the right type of heater for where they plan to use it in order to avoid the risk of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. If you are planning to purchase a portable propane heater to use as an emergency back-up for power outages or to heat a chilly garage or workshop, you need to make sure that you look for a heater that is identified as indoor-safe.

“When you are shopping for a portable heater, it is vitally important that you read the packaging and the operating instructions. It could mean the difference between life and death.”

With paralyzing winter storms now sweeping up the East Coast, portable propane heaters can provide temporary relief from sub-freezing temperatures, especially in areas hit by power outages according the online propane product safety website, CampSafe.org.

Home centers, hardware stores and mass retailers offer a variety of portable heaters that operate with propane to heat chilly workspaces, garages, sheds and other ventilated spaces where electric power is not available. However, consumers less experienced with propane and kerosene-fueled heaters should make sure they are selecting the right type of heater for where they plan to use it in order to avoid the risk of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

“There are portable heaters specifically designed and approved for temporary indoor use,” states Dennis Pavan, a spokesman for CampSafe.org, an online camping and product safety information website. “When you are shopping for a portable heater, it is vitally important that you read the packaging and the operating instructions. It could mean the difference between life and death.”

Outdoor-only heaters, such as propane tank mounted radiant heaters and portable forced-air propane and kerosene heaters (sometimes called “torpedo heaters”) have traditionally been used at construction sites and football sidelines. When these types of heaters are brought inside a tent, residential home, or garage, the risk of CO poisoning is significantly increased.

According to a 2006 analysis prepared by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), approximately 19 CO-related heating system fatalities in 2006 were attributed to LP or propane-fueled heaters*.

CO is a colorless, odorless and highly poisonous gas that is produced from incomplete combustion. CO interferes with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen to the lungs and can result in flu-like symptoms including headache, nausea and dizziness. Increased exposure without exposure to fresh air can lead to death by asphyxiation.

If you are planning to purchase a portable propane heater to use as an emergency back-up for power outages or to heat a chilly garage or workshop, you need to make sure that you look for a heater that is identified as indoor-safe.

“One thing you need to remember is that any fuel-burning appliance needs fresh air to operate.” adds Pavan, “The more you reduce air circulation the more you increase the risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning”.
CampSafe.org urges consumers to follow these safe heating tips:

  •     Always read the manufacturers’ packaging and operating instructions for proper use and handling.
  •     Heaters identified as “outdoor use only” burn fuel at a high rate and must never be used indoors or in tents, campers, residential garages, trailers and other enclosures.
  •     Know the symptoms of CO poisoning (e.g., nausea, dizziness, headache, etc.) If you think that you may be affected, immediately turn off any possible source of CO and move to an area with fresh air.
  •     Remember that portable gas-fired generators operate on fuel combustion and should never be operated indoors. When operating a generator outdoors, place it away from windows and air intakes.
  •     No matter how cold, no fuel-burning appliance, including indoor-safe appliances, should be left unattended or operated while sleeping.

Camp Safe is an organization dedicated to educating the public about the safe use of propane camping products in order to help people avoid potentially dangerous situations. For more information about indoor-safe propane heaters, visit http://www.campsafe.org or write to P.O. Box 45002, Cleveland, OH, 44145 for a free safety brochure.

Media Contact: Dennis Pavan, Camp Safe Coalition, at 216-875-8860

*Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Deaths Associated with the Use of Consumer Products, 2006 Annual Estimates. Published September, 2009

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Dennis Pavan
CampSafe
216.875.8860 ext. 19
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