Thu, Dec 16, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Watchdog warns about heaters, carbon monoxide

HOME SAFETY:Winter weather means more heaters and hot pot meals, increasing the dangers of electrical fires

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

A fireman from the Jhuwei Fire Department in Taoyuan County inspects a water heater at a house yesterday. The department is advising people who use gas-powered water heaters to allow for sufficient ventilation and ensure that extraction pipes are well maintained to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning during the colder winter months.

PHOTO: LI JUNG-PING, TAIPEI TIMES

As a cold front envelops the nation and windows are shut to keep the cold out, the Consumers’ Foundation yesterday warned of the increased risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and accidental fires.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when households turn on heaters, furnaces and stoves in enclosed spaces, because the carbon monoxide that is generated by such devices is not aired out, the foundation said.

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, which makes it especially dangerous because people are unaware of its presence.

As carbon monoxide combines much more easily with red blood cells than oxygen does when inhaled in sufficient quantities, it can induce a coma. Without proper and timely assistance, death can result in a matter of minutes, the National Fire Agency said.

In January 2008 alone, the agency reported 14 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, causing two deaths and leaving 27 people with health problems.

People who use water heaters or electric heaters indoors during the cold season, or eat hot pot at home, should make sure that the appliances are only used in well-ventilated areas to ensure that the carbon monoxide dissipates properly, the agency said

Turning to other risks associated with the devices, the foundation said statistics from fire departments showed that of the 2,621 fires reported last year, 846, or 32 percent, were caused by electrical appliances.

As a rule of thumb, people should avoid plugging in more than one electrical appliance in the same wall outlet if the total usage exceeds 1,500 watts.

For example, one should not boil water and cook hot pot at the same time with the same outlet, because the energy consumption of the two devices would likely exceed 1,500 watts, the foundation said.

People should check old wires and electrical plugs to make sure that the insulation or outer covering does not expose electrical wires, the foundation said.

People should also check their water heaters, furnaces and stoves to ensure that there is a mark indicating it has passed Chinese National Standards (中國國家標準) tests. When shopping for a gas stove, the foundation advises consumers to check for the mark that indicates it has been certified by the Taiwan Gas Appliance Manufacturers (台灣區瓦斯器材工業同業公會).

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER

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