Consumer Alert: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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Over the past year, there have been numerous reported incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning state-wide, reinforcing the dangerous consequences of this gas and the need for safety and precautionary measures.  Although many think of carbon monoxide poisoning as a wintertime hazard, CO poisoning is a safety issue all year round wherever and whenever you burn fuel.  If you have fire, you have carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide, known as the “invisible killer,” is a colorless, odorless gas. Because it is undetectable to the human senses, you may not know that you are being exposed until it is too late. Plus, carbon monoxide poisoning is difficult to diagnose because symptoms often are mistaken as indicators of other illnesses. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, and confusion. Extremely high levels of carbon monoxide inhalation can lead to unconsciousness and even death. Infants and people with chronic heart disease or anemia are particularly susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.  So be alert. If you suffer any of these symptoms, address them immediately. It could be carbon monoxide poisoning. The best protection is to install carbon monoxide detectors. They are inexpensive and save lives.

To protect you and your family against carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Never use a gas range or an oven to heat your home. These appliances are intended for cooking – not to serve as space heaters.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or a portable camping stove inside of a home, a tent, or a camper. Only cook outside, where there is sufficient air circulation and ventilation. Remember, carbon monoxide gas can be given off from the burning of charcoal.
  • Do not leave a car running inside a garage which is attached to your house. Carbon monoxide can build up in your garage and leak into your house.
  • Inspect heating equipment. Regularly check your chimneys and vents to make sure they are not blocked. If using exhaust fans, be sure to open a window or door. Look for rust and cracks in the heat exchanger when inspecting furnaces.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home, particularly near bedrooms and sleeping areas. Remember, though, that carbon monoxide detectors are just back-up safety measures; you still need to check your appliances regularly.
  • Make sure that you are familiar with the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Early symptoms are similar to the flu and can include headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and shortness of breath. See a doctor immediately if you begin to notice flu-like symptoms and you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • The consumption of alcohol may hinder the ability to identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is particularly hazardous for the following groups: the elderly, children, and those with blood disorders or circulatory system problems, such as anemia and heart disease.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately and then call 911.
For more information on how to keep you and your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Carbon Monoxide Safety Guide here.