With the seasons changing it is time to start thinking about turning on the furnace. It is important to consider the risk of carbon monoxide and to make sure your family and home is safe from this silent killer.
Every year in the United States, hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands more are hospitalized. Carbon monoxide is a gas that is produced when fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil are burned. In only minutes, deadly fumes can develop in enclosed places. When carbon monoxide is breathed in, it enters the bloodstream and prevents the delivery of oxygen to the body's organ and tissues.
The first signs or symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may be a headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, and nausea. The longer the exposure to carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness, brain damage, and death. Education and prevention is the key to prevent exposure to carbon monoxide.
In 2010, 986 people were unintentially exposed and poisoned by carbon monoxide, and 26 individuals died from the exposure. The leading causes of exposure were faulty furnaces or water heaters, fires, and power machinery misplacement (space heaters, generators). More than 60 percent of the exposures occurred during the winter months and happened most frequently in the home.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide or CO is a harmful gas that you cannot see or smell. Carbon monoxide is made when fuels like wood, oil and coal are burned.
You can breathe in carbon monoxide if your appliances or equipment are broken, or if you use them in the wrong way. Some types of equipment that make carbon monoxide are:
- Kerosene heaters
- Camp stoves
- Space heaters
- Hot water heaters
- Power Washers
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
You can breathe in carbon monoxide and not even know it. You might feel like you have the flu. You may:
- Have a headache
- Nausea, vomiting
- Feel tired
- Have trouble breathing, shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Feel sick to your stomach or throw up
A carbon monoxide alarm will let you know if you have too much in your home.
If you breathe in a lot of carbon monoxide, you can get very sick. When you breathe in carbon monoxide, your brain and your heart don’t get enough air. You could:
- Have a heart attack
- Have trouble thinking
- Go into a coma or die
What can you do?
- Get to fresh air right away
- Call 911 or your local fire department
- Call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Put carbon monoxide alarms in your home
- Place alarms near bedrooms. Place an alarm on every floor of your home.
- Read the directions that come with the alarm. They will tell you where to put the alarm, how to use it and how often to check the batteries.
- Put batteries in all your alarms. If the power goes out, plug-in alarms will not work without batteries.
- Have a professional set up your furnace, hot water heater or stove. Make an appointment to have a professional check on the furnace once a year.
- Do not leave your car running in a garage, even with the garage door open.
- Use outdoor equipment outside, away from windows and doors. Do not use generators, grills, or gas-powered tools indoors or near windows or doors.
Use generators safely:
- Only use your generator outside.
- Put the generator more than 15 feet away from your house and your neighbors’ houses.
- Point the exhaust away from houses.
- To prevent a fire, have an electrician help you choose and set up your generator.
Questions or concerns call your local Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222. The Michigan Department of Community also has a very helpful fact sheet about carbon monoxode at http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/FACTS_ABOUT_CARBON_MONOXIDE_206601_7.pdf