Over the New Year’s weekend, two women in Willowbrook were fatally poisoned by carbon monoxide after deciding to use their gas home oven to keep warm, and three others in the City of Inglewood nearly lost their lives using a faulty gas wall heater. Los Angeles County firefighters are urging residents to use their home appliances safely – and only for their intended purpose.
“The victims, ages 81 and 63, were trying to stay warm by using their home oven to heat their apartment. With windows locked and the oven set on high heat with the door open, they received a concentrated exposure to carbon monoxide, which sadly turned out to be fatal,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman. “Our firefighters tried to resuscitate them, but it was too late.”
Also recently, three residents, including two young children, became lethargic and semi-conscious after using a faulty wall heater to heat their apartment to temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees. According to the Gas Company, the unit had been inspected and found to be faulty, and the apartment building owner had been notified. All three victims were treated by county firefighters and survived the ordeal.
“We urge all residents to never use their ovens, range, or portable outdoor barbecue to heat their homes because these appliances are not designed for this purpose,” said Freeman.
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer because it 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.” In the case of home gas appliances, this can be caused by improper installation, poor maintenance, or appliance misuse or failure. The early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning produce unexplained flu-like symptoms; its gradual displacement of oxygen in the blood and prolonged exposure can lead to death.
To keep safe residents are advised to install a certified, battery-operated Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm or plug-in CO alarm with battery back-up in the hallways near the bedrooms in each sleeping area. Make sure appliances are installed according to the manufacturer’s instruction and the local codes. Residents should make sure their heating system (including chimneys and vents) are inspected and serviced annually. The Southern California Gas Company offers this service for free.
For more home appliance safety information, visit the Southern California Gas Company website at http://www.socalgas.com/safety/appliance.html, or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at http://www.cpsc.gov.