Colder Weather Means Beware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, November 1, 2010

Colder Weather Means Beware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

As the temperature drops we think of turning leaves, football and the holidays. We also think about turning on the heat and winterizing our houses. This is the time of year we should remember the hazards of carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels.  Approximately 40,000 people a year require medical attention due to overexposure of CO gas.  Over 2,500 a year die from it.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mirror those of the flu.  Headaches, nausea and fatigue are common symptoms but there can also be confusion, memory problems and seizures.  If you have any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning go to an emergency room immediately, especially if several people in the household or pets are affected.

Remember your first line of defense is to install a carbon monoxide monitor on each level of your home.  According to the National Fire Protection Association 93% of homes have smoke alarms, yet only 15% have carbon monoxide monitors.  A carbon monoxide monitor with an audible alarm works much like a home smoke alarm and beeps loudly when carbon monoxide is detected. 

Make sure to inspect your home for possible problem areas.  Inspect your furnace and appliances, such as gas ovens, ranges, and cook tops, for adequate ventilation.  Do not burn charcoal inside your house (even in the fireplace).  Have gas fireplaces inspected each fall to ensure the pilot light burns safely.  Do not operate gasoline-powered engines in confined areas such as garages or basements.  Do not leave your car, mower, or other vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the door open.  Do not block exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges, and clothes dryers.  If you have any questions about CO poisoning please call 268-3221 or 268-1493.