PG&E Urges Customers to Protect Themselves from Dangerous Carbon Monoxide Unsafe Concentrations Can Cause Serious Illness and Even Death
Release Date: December 22, 2008
Contact: PG&E External Communications (415) 973-5930
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – As cold winter weather chills northern and central California this week, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) urges customers to be mindful of the dangers associated with carbon monoxide. Several tragic cases of carbon monoxide poisoning have taken place this week as customers throughout the state try to stay warm.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that is created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and wood. If unsafe concentrations of carbon monoxide are not detected, the result can be fatal.
PG&E urges customers to never use generators, charcoal or barbeque grills inside the home. When using the fireplace to stay warm, make sure the flue is open, so the byproducts of combustion can vent safely through the chimney. When operating a vehicle in snow, customers should be mindful that carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur when accumulations of snow obstruct a vehicle’s tailpipe or exhaust system.
Many customers in PG&E’s service area use natural gas furnaces to stay warm. PG&E reminds customers to make sure all natural gas furnaces and appliances inside the home are in proper working order. Natural gas appliances that do not burn properly can produce carbon monoxide. Customers should inspect the flame on all gas appliances. A blue flame indicates complete combustion and the appliance is working properly. A lazy, yellow or white flame is a warning sign that the appliance is not burning properly and could be producing carbon monoxide.
If customers suspect there is a problem with a natural gas appliance inside their home, they should call PG&E immediately at 1-800-PGE-5000. A gas service representative will be dispatched to do a thorough inspection free of charge.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and convulsions. Because carbon monoxide is hard to detect, someone with mild poisoning can go to sleep and continue to breathe the carbon monoxide until severe illness or death occurs. People may also mistake their symptoms for a viral infection like the flu.
"Each year during the fall and winter heating season, we feel it’s important to remind customers about the hazards of improperly heating their homes," said Helen Burt, senior vice president and chief customer officer for PG&E. "Using equipment intended for outdoor use to heat indoors can have tragic consequences."
To help prevent cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, PG&E offers the following tips to keep customers healthy and safe:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide has no color, no taste and no odor. Detectors will warn you when concentrations become dangerously high.
- The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends detectors be placed near sleeping areas, where they can wake you if you are asleep.
- Never use generators, barbeques or charcoal indoors.
- Ensure that generators are properly installed and operated outdoors. For more generator safety tips, please visit www.pge.com/generator/.
- When using the fire place, make sure the flue is open, and the chimney is venting properly.
- Make sure water heaters and other natural gas appliances have proper ventilation.
- Do not idle cars inside the garage and do not allow snow to block tailpipe emissions when operating a vehicle outdoors.
- Have a trained professional inspect furnaces and other gas appliances. PG&E will perform these inspections free of charge. To schedule an appointment, customers can call 1-800-PGE-5000 or visit our website at www.pge.com.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE: PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to 15 million people in northern and central California. For more information, please visit www.pge.com.
For more gas and electric safety information, please visit www.pge.com/safety