The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning hurricane victims that gasoline-powered generators should not be used indoors, because of the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Also, all gas control valves, electric circuit breakers, round fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), and fuses that have been under water must be replaced to avoid electrocutions, explosions and fires.
CPSC Chairman Ann Brown said, "If people use gasoline-powered generators indoors, they could die from CO poisoning. Opening doors and windows or operating fans does not guarantee safety."
CO poisoning from the use of fuel-burning appliances kills more than 200 people each year and sends about 10,000 to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.
CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning any fuel. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu, and include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea and irregular breathing. Exposure to high levels of CO can cause death.
"CPSC recommends that consumers use gasoline-powered generators outdoors and away from air intakes to prevent CO poisoning," Brown said. "And every home should have at least one CO detector that meets the requirements of the most recent Underwriters Laboratories standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS 6-96 standard."
Replacing Flood-Damaged Gas Control Valves, Electric Circuit Breakers, GFCIs and Fuses
Even if these safety devices appear to function after being submerged in a flood, they are unfit for continued use and cannot be repaired. They may eventually fail, causing electrocutions, explosions or fires. Other parts of gas and electric appliances that have been submerged such as fans, motors, electric circuits, and venting systems should be evaluated by a qualified technician for continued safe operation. Entire appliances may need to be replaced.
Gas control valves on furnaces, water heaters, and other gas appliances that have been under water must be replaced. Silt and corrosion from flood water can damage internal components of control valves and prevent proper operation. Gas can leak and result in an explosion or fire. Gas control valves that have been under water cannot be salvaged; they must be replaced.
Electric circuit breakers, GFCIs, and fuses that have been submerged must also be replaced because water and silt inside the devices prevent them from performing properly as safety devices. Flood water and silt trapped inside circuit breakers or switches can cause electrical shorting or mechanical malfunctions. The only safe action is to discard and replace circuit breakers, GFCIs, and fuses that have been under water.
CPSC also recommends that consumers replace smoke detectors and CO detectors that have been submerged.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. Deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $900 billion annually. CPSC is committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products - such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters and household chemicals - contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 30 years.
Federal law bars any person from selling products subject to a publicly-announced voluntary recall by a manufacturer or a mandatory recall ordered by the Commission.
To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury go online to www.SaferProducts.gov or call CPSC's Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or teletypewriter at (301) 595-7054 for the hearing impaired. Consumers can obtain news release and recall information at www.cpsc.gov, on Twitter @OnSafety or by subscribing to CPSC's free e-mail newsletters.