Earlier this month, a family in southern California was reported to have used an oven to try to stay warm in the cold temperatures, resulting in the deaths of two people from carbon monoxide poisoning. This tragic incident is a reminder that carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal, but can be prevented through proper use, installation and maintenance of natural gas appliances.
It’s important not to use your oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home, because these appliances are not designed for such use and pose a severe and potentially fatal risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if used for space heating.
Many local utilities, including the Southern California Gas Co., offer furnace safety checks at no cost to customers, or customers can call a licensed, qualified professional to ensure their appliances are operating properly.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is formed when carbon-based fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood, are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen, creating a condition known as incomplete combustion. When incomplete combustion occurs, carbon monoxide is produced, and this can potentially lead to carbon monoxide poisoning to a family.
The early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning produce unexplained flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and mental confusion. Since carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in the blood, prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to death.
Signs that may indicate the presence of carbon monoxide:
- A yellow, large and unsteady gas appliance burner flame.
- An unusual pungent odor when the appliance is operating. This may indicate the creation of aldehydes, a by-product of incomplete combustion.
- Unexplained nausea, drowsiness and flu-like symptoms.
What to do if someone suspects carbon monoxide is present in their home:
- If safe to do so, immediately turn off the suspected gas appliance.
- Evacuate the premises and call 911.
- Seek medical attention if anyone in the home experiences possible carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
- Contact the gas company or a licensed, qualified professional immediately to have the appliance inspected.
- Don’t use the suspected appliance until it has been inspected, serviced and determined to be safe by the gas company or a licensed, qualified professional.
Stay safe this winter — don’t even think of using your stove or oven to heat your home. It’s just not worth the risk.