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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that has no odor or color, but it is very dangerous. It can cause sudden illness and death. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those made by cars and trucks, lanterns, stoves, gas ranges and heating systems. CO from these fumes can build up in places that don't have a good flow of fresh air. You can be poisoned by breathing them in.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. It is difficult to tell if someone has carbon monoxide poisoning since these symptoms can mimic other illnesses. Someone who is sleeping or is intoxicated can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before they exhibit symptoms. A carbon monoxide detector can warn you if you have high carbon monoxide levels in your home.

Too often during the winter months, you hear a tragic story of someone dying from carbon monoxide poisoning inside a home that could have been so easily avoided. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will help you avoid an unnecessary tragedy:

- Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never use a charcoal grill or a barbecue grill indoors. Using a grill indoors will cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper unless you use it inside a vented fireplace.
- Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal — red, gray, black, or white — gives off CO.
- Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window, door, or vent.

The American College of Emergency Physicians offers the following general tips for preventing carbon monoxide poisoning:

- Gas appliances should be installed and maintained by a qualified professional.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed on each level of your home, preferably near bedrooms.
- Never leave a vehicle engine running in an enclosed garage.
- Portable flameless chemical heaters should never be used indoors. Although they don't have a flame, they can release carbon monoxide.
- Charcoal grills should never be used indoors.
- All gas appliances must be properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide buildup indoors.
- Make sure your fireplace flue is open when you have a fire, and get your chimney checked and cleaned annually.
(SOURCE: American College of Emergency Physicians, news release, Dec. 17, 2010)

Here are some links for more information on carbon monoxide poisoning:

Portable Generator Hazards (Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Carbon Monoxide Hazards from Small Gasoline Powered Engines (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)

Quiet Killer Video (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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