Bed Bath and Beyond has recalled around 175,000 comforters because of mold contamination. This time of year, many of us here in San Miguel de Allende are huddled around space heaters (see previous blogs on air quality issues) and dive into bed early to keep warm. If you brought a comforter from the U.S. and wonder if it safe you can go here for more information on the recall. I am not an alarmist. If you keep your comforter clean and dry there should not be a problem with mold. But if you have one of these comforters I suggest getting the refund and start with a mold-free comforter.
I received this notice from IAQA, my Indoor Air Quality Association membership:
“Bed Bath & Beyond Recalls Nearly 200K Comforters Over Mold”
Bed Bath & Beyond is recalling nearly 200,000 UGG comforters sold in stores nationwide and online over concerns about mold, and warns anyone who bought the products should immediately stop using them.”
SMA Home Inspections does basic mold testing and can make suggestions on how to minimize mold growth in you home.
If you research this you will find the answer to be a resounding NO…!!! THEY COULD BE WRONG and here is why. If it is dangerous and if you will get carbon monoxide (the most often cited danger) then you better forget cooking the turkey for thanksgiving. Why is turning on your oven for 3-5 hours to cook a turkey okay and turning on your empty oven for an hour or two to warm up your kitchen (and dining and living room in today’s open design homes) not okay?
First of all, many vent less gas log sets found all over the world and very common here in San Miguel de Allende burn less efficient on purpose. Some have a yellow flame like a real fire which may indicate lower temperatures and incomplete combustion. Your oven should have a blue flame which means it is more efficient than many of the alternative space heaters using propane or natural gas including vent less gas log sets. Ovens are built to bake bread, cook a turkey and keep food warm for hours and hours at a time. They are usually not vented, poorly insulated and let all of the heat into the room which makes for a decent source of heat. If there is carbon monoxide it should be well within standard limits, otherwise they could not sell you the oven for cooking.
The only real danger is if the oven flame somehow goes out while the valve/knob is left on and at the same time the safety malfunctions and sends unburned gas into the house. Does this happen when you are cooking a turkey? Note: newer gas log sets have an oxygen sensor that turns off the gas if the room becomes depleted of oxygen below a certain safe level. Does your gas heater have this safety feature? Your oven does not have this feature so be careful using you oven as a space heater.
Yes it is true, an oven was not made for space heating. But the blue flame of my oven tells me it is burning more efficiently than my gas fireplace log set. After an hour or so my eyes are burning from the fireplace log set. This is not the case with the oven. Distribution is a problem equal to both heaters. So I don’t recommend using an oven to heat a large area. But if your oven is safe to cook a turkey for a few hours, then it is safe to turn on with or without a turkey to take the cold edge off the kitchen in the early morning (never leave an unvented gas heater on while you sleep). Am I missing something here?
Propane gas log sets come in a variety of styles and sizes. They are generally safe to operate but only for an hour or less at a time. The Canadian study here found that 1 in 5 homes using vent less heaters like the gas log sets found in many San Miguel homes had unsafe levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and oxides of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Your log set is probably located in a fireplace nicho, but don’t let that fool you. Look inside and up and you most likely will find there is no vent or chimney. You have a vent less heater and you need to be careful.
Personally, I find them unhealthy and I hope to see more homes with direct vent heaters, radiant in-floor heat and other safer and healthier heaters installed in San Miguel homes. Gas log sets are designed to burn less efficiently with a yellow flame (like a real fire) instead of the more efficient blue flame. Fortunately, the doors and windows in many San Miguel homes leak air and this allows for contaminated air to exit and cleaner air to enter. But of course this lowers the efficiency of your heaters.
What are the warning signs:
- yellow/orange flame instead of blue/white indicate less complete combustion
- strong smell of combustion
- physical symptoms of incomplete combustion (eyes burning, headaches, nausea, dizziness etc)
What can you do ?
- install carbon monoxide sensors that sound an alarm
- purchase good quality gas heaters,
- service the gas heater every year in the fall and insure you have blue flames indicating more complete combustion of the propane gas
- do not use your heaters continuously, use them for an hour at most and supplement with electric heaters, warm clothes, electric blankets etc.
- open you doors and window when the outside temperature is higher than in your house. Close up in the late afternoon when you feel the cool air outside.