Furnaces, Space Heaters, Fireplaces Can Pose Health Risks

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Space heaters can cause fires if they are placed too close to flammable materials such as drapes, furniture or bedding. Fireplaces can cause fires if the chimney is cracked, blocked or coated with creosote, or if sparks and embers reach flammable materials. Fuel-burning appliances can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they are improperly installed, poorly maintained, have defective or blocked venting systems, or are misused. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Marion County Health Department offer these tips to ensure all Indianapolis residents remain safe while staying warm.

Space heater tips:

* Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

* To prevent the risk of fire, NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater close to any sleeping person. Turn the space heater off if you leave the area.

* Use a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features; older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards. An unvented gas space heater that meets current safety standards will shut off if oxygen levels fall too low.

* Make sure your heater is correctly rated for your home. An oversized heater could deplete the available oxygen, causing excess carbon monoxide to be produced. Keep a window in the room open at least one inch and keep doors open to the rest of the house to ensure proper ventilation. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion.

* Follow the manufacturer's instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent carbon monoxide production.

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* Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually to ensure proper operation.

* Do not use a kitchen range or oven to heat your house because it could overheat or generate excessive carbon monoxide.

* Have a smoke alarm with fresh batteries on each level of the house, inside every bedroom, and outside the bedrooms in each sleeping area. In addition, have a carbon monoxide alarm outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area.

Fireplace safety tips:

* Have flues and chimneys inspected before each heating season for leakage and blockage by creosote or debris.

* Open the fireplace damper before lighting the fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool. Never close the damper or go to bed if the ashes are still warm. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.

* Never use gasoline, charcoal lighter or other fuel to light or relight a fire because the vapors can explode. Never keep flammable fuels or materials near a fire. Never store flammable liquids in your home.

* Never use charcoal in a fireplace because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

* Keep a screen or glass enclosure around a fireplace to prevent sparks or embers from igniting flammable materials.

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