When millions of people lost power in Texas and other southern states, propane came to the rescue for some but others died of carbon monoxide poisoning as they desperately tried to heat their homes or cars.
Many propane cylinder powered radiant heaters and portable forced-air propane and kerosene heaters (sometimes called “torpedo heaters”), like those used at work sites and football sidelines, are only intended to be used outdoors. When these types of heaters are brought inside a, residential home or garage, the risk of CO poisoning is significantly increased.
CO is a colorless, odorless and highly poisonous gas that is produced from incomplete combustion. CO interferes with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen to the lungs and can result in flu-like symptoms including headache, nausea and dizziness. Increased exposure without exposure to fresh air can lead to death by asphyxiation.
Although odorless, propane is stored with a kind of stink-bomb in the gas to help users recognize its distinct smell - rotten eggs, a dead animal, or a skunk's spray. This is one of the safety features that propane manufacturers use to know if there's a leak. Why? Because burning propane results in carbon monoxide being made. When people are exposed to this gas, the CO molecules displace the oxygen in their bodies, leading to poisoning. However, carbon monoxide is easily dispersed by natural air currents. Additionally, you can install a propane gas detector which can sound an alarm if it senses the propane concentration at the sensor.
Tips for Using Propane
If not correctly handled, propane can cost you your home, or worse, your life. Here are some safety tips:
- Properly secure propane cylinders when transporting and don't store them in living spaces or basement;
- Secure temporary cylinders when used for hot water, heat, or cooking;
- Don't use propane gas BBQ grills inside, nor portable electric generators;
- Don't use propane stoves or ovens for room heating;
- Regularly perform a leak test and the inspection of the entire system.
As one of the most efficient sources of energy, propane is used by millions of Americans. It is readily available, economical, and efficient, but if not correctly used, it can cause hazards. That's why it's crucial to do regular checkups of all propane devices you own.