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New, Safer Propane Tank for Barbecue Grills Helps to Avoid Gas Leaks- Device Expected to Prevent Many of the 600 Fires/Explosions Each Year

Release Date: March 22, 2002

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wants consumers to know that as of April 1, 2002, many state and local jurisdictions will require that all propane gas tanks being refilled for consumers to use with their barbecue grills must have a new safety device. The over-fill prevention device will help to avoid propane leaks that can cause fires and explosions. The new standard is published by the National Fire Protection Association.

"CPSC worked with industry to develop this safety standard to help prevent deaths and injuries," said CPSC Acting Chairman Thomas Moore. "As people trade in their old propane tanks for newer ones, we will see fewer fires."

Propane gas is highly flammable. Each year, about 600 fires/explosions occur with gas grills resulting in injuries to about 30 people. The new safety standard for propane gas tanks requires that an "over-fill prevention device" be installed in new gas tanks. The new propane gas tanks have valve handles with three "lobes" (prongs) while older tanks have valve handles with five prongs. Beginning April 1, only the new propane tanks will be sold or refilled nationwide. People with older propane gas tanks will need to get the new, safer tanks when they go in for a refill. While some dealers are trading in old tanks at no cost, others may charge a fee, which could range from $10 to $20.

An additional industry standard (adopted in 1995 at the urging of CPSC) provided for several safety features in the gas grills, hoses, and connections. The safety standard calls for a device to limit the flow of gas if the hose ruptures; a mechanism to shut-off the grill if it overheats; and a device to prevent the flow of gas if the connection between tank and grill is not leak-proof. People who have grills that do not meet the 1995 standard should either get a new grill or be especially attentive to the safety tips below.

Here are some safety tips to reduce the risk of fire or explosion with gas grills:

- 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.

- Always keep propane gas containers upright.

- Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill or indoors.

- Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.

- Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, which may open the relief valve and allow gas to escape.

- Make sure your spark ignitor is consistently generating a spark to create a flame and burn the propane gas. If the flame is not visible, the heavier-than-air propane gas may be escaping and could explode.

- Never bring the propane tank into the house.

Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when it is burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. Each year about 17 people die as a result of CO fumes from charcoal being burned inside. To reduce the risk of CO poisoning:

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

- Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.

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

In 1996, CPSC revised the label on charcoal packaging to more explicitly warn consumers of the deadly CO gas that is released when charcoal is burned in a closed environment. The new label reads, "WARNING ... CARBON MONOXIDE HAZARD ... Burning charcoal inside can kill you. It gives off carbon monoxide, which has no odor. NEVER burn charcoal inside homes, vehicles or tents." The new label also conveys the written warning visually with drawings of grills inside a home, tent, and vehicle. The drawings are enclosed in a circle with an "X" through it.

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About the U.S. CPSC
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death associated with the use of thousands of types of consumer products. Deaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product-related incidents cost the nation more than $1 trillion annually. CPSC's work to ensure the safety of consumer products has contributed to a decline in the rate of injuries associated with consumer products over the past 50 years. 

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