Kerosene Heat Precautions

Beware of the Dangers from Kerosene Heater Use

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 6, 2009) – The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is advising Kentuckians of the possible dangers from kerosene heater use as residents seek alternative heat sources to stay warm following last week’s devastating winter ice storm.

“The improper use of kerosene heaters can become deadly if homeowners do not follow manufacturer’s instructions for this alternative heat source,” said William Hacker, M.D., DPH commissioner. “It is important to take precautionary safety measures such as allowing adequate ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and avoid fire hazards.”

Officials from DPH advise residents to follow precautionary guidelines from the National Center for Environmental Health for safe kerosene heater use:

  • Be sure to properly follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully for your specific heater model, making sure that the wick is set at the proper level as instructed by the manufacturer and is clean.
  • Ensure your kerosene heater is only operated in a well-vented area. Leave a door open to the rest of the house or keep an outside window open to ensure an adequate flow of fresh air.
  • Kerosene heaters require 1-K grade kerosene fuel. When colored or cloudy kerosene is burned, it will give off an odor, smoke and cause increased indoor pollution levels because of the fuel’s higher sulfur content. Non-1-K grade kerosene can also gum up the wick.
  • Always store kerosene in a container intended for kerosene only, not in a gasoline can or a container that has contained gasoline. This helps to avoid using contaminated fuel or the wrong fuel by mistake. Kerosene containers are usually blue and gasoline containers are red.
  • Never refuel the heater inside the home. Fill the tank outdoors, away from combustible materials and only after the heater has been turned off and allowed to cool. Do not fill the fuel tank above the “full” mark. This area is used to allow the fuel to expand without causing leakage when the heater is operated. Never attempt to move a lighted kerosene heater. Even a carrying handle could cause burns.
  • To avoid the risk of fire, even in normal operation you should place kerosene heaters several feet away from all furniture, curtains, paper, clothes, bedding and other combustible materials.
  • Infants, small children and pets should be kept away from heaters to avoid serious burns.

Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Early symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Carbon monoxide poisoning is treatable.

If you are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, contact the Poison Control hotline at (800) 222-1222.

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