From: Paul Schaefer, ENN
Published December 31, 2007 10:07 PM

Utilities Remind Customers: Protect Home From Carbon Monoxide

SAN FRANCISCO - Many customers are turning gas furnaces on to stay warm as cold winter weather arrives in force. The west coast utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company reminds customers nationwide to make sure all gas furnaces and appliances inside the home are in proper working order.

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Gas appliances that do not burn properly can produce unsafe concentrations of carbon monoxide, a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that can cause serious illness and even death if not detected. Carbon monoxide is created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and wood. Customers should inspect the flame on all gas appliances.

A blue flame indicates complete combustion and the appliance is working properly. A lazy, yellow flame is a warning sign that the appliance is not burning properly and could be producing carbon monoxide. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and convulsions.

Because carbon monoxide is hard to detect, someone with mild poisoning can go to sleep and continue to breathe the carbon monoxide until severe illness or death occurs. People may also mistake their symptoms for a viral infection like the flu. Last Friday, a customer in Santa Cruz suffered carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a wall heater that had an accumulation of dust and lint clogging the burner.

To help prevent this from happening again, PG&E offers the following tips to keep customers safe from carbon monoxide: -- Install a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide has no color, no taste and no odor. Detectors will warn you when concentrations become dangerously high.

-- The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends detectors be placed near sleeping areas, where they can wake you if you are asleep. -- When using the fire place, make sure the flue is open.
-- Make sure rooms and gas appliances are properly ventilated.
-- Do not idle cars inside the garage. -- Never use barbeques or charcoal indoors.
-- Have a trained professional inspect furnaces and gas appliances.

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