Grill Fires, Explosions and CO Poisoning

The summer is a season for outdoor food and fun around the barbecue. Unfortunately, it's also the time for burn injuries and poisonings from improper use of grills. As the barbecue season goes into full swing, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning of dangers related to carbon monoxide poisoning and burns, as well as defective gas grills that have been recalled by the manufacturers.

Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

Each year, charcoal grills are involved in about 20 deaths and more than 300 emergency room-treated injuries due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Burning charcoal produces CO, a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. To reduce your risk of CO poisonings, follow CPSC's 3 safety tips:

1 - Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents, or campers.

2 - Charcoal should never be used indoors, even with ventilation.

3 - Since charcoal produces CO until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store the grill indoors with freshly used coals.

Gas Grill Safety Tips

Liquid petroleum (LP) gas or propane, used in gas grills, is extremely flammable and hazardous. Each year more than 500 fires occur when people use gas grills. You're at greatest risk just after refilling and reattaching the grill's gas container, or when you're using a grill that's been left idle for a period of time.

To reduce the risks, follow these precautions suggested by CPSC:

  • Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.

  • Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.

  • Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. If you can't move the hoses, install a heat shield to protect them.

  • Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can eventually leak gas.

  • If you detect a gas leak, immediately turn off the gas at the tank and don't attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.

  • Keep lighted cigarettes, matches, or open flames away from a leaking grill.

  • Never use a grill indoors. Use the grill at least 10 feet away from any building. Do not use the grill in a garage, carport, porch, or under a surface that can catch fire.

  • When lighting the grill, keep the top open. If the grill does not light in first several attempts, wait 5 minutes to allow gas to dissipate.

  • Never attempt to repair the tank valve or the appliance yourself. See an LP gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person.

  • Use caution when storing LP gas containers. Always keep containers upright. Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill, or store a full container indoors. Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.

  • To avoid incidents while transporting LP gas containers, consumers should transport the container in a secure, upright position. Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, causing the relief valve to open and allowing gas to escape.

CPSC worked with grill manufacturers to develop a new voluntary standard to prevent LP gas leaks. Grills meeting this standard will shut themselves off if a gas leak occurs.

Grill Recalls

In November 1998, CPSC and Sunbeam Products Inc. recalled for repair about 80,000 Grillmaster gas grills with side burners. The side burner's propane gas hose on these grills can twist up toward the aluminum casting of the grill, causing overheating and melting of the hose. Gas leakage or a fire could result from the hose damage. To get a free repair kit or for more information, call Sunbeam toll-free at (888) 892-8150.

In May 1999, CPSC and Kmart announced a recall of about 40,000 Tru-Burn Portable LP Gas Grills because their burner manifolds can separate during use and ignite nearby combustibles. For more information, call Kmart toll-free at (800) 63KMART.

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