‘Tis the Season for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas that results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, wood, and coal. Each year in the United States, more than 400 people die from accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, more than 20,000 visit emergency rooms and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO exposure. CO-related injury and death is most common during the colder months of the year, when the doors are closed and the heat is on, and during natural disasters, when people are likely to use electrical generators or cook and heat with combustible materials such as charcoal. In industry, CO poisoning occurs most often in the service sector, agriculture, construction and manufacturing. The signs and symptoms of acute exposure to carbon monoxide may include headache, flushing, nausea, vertigo, weakness, irritability and unconsciousness. Permanent central nervous system injury is also possible.

Below are some tips that can help you to prevent CO exposure in the home:

1. Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
2. Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
3. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
4. Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
5. Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open
6. Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
7. Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.

Excellent sources for information on how to prevent CO poisoning can be found on the websites of the US Centers for Disease Control, National Library of Medicine, OR-OSHA and Federal OSHA.

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