Warning! Home Heating and Carbon Monoxide

carbonmonoxide930

As the weather cools and folks start to warm their homes, parents need to take care about a potential carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  Symptoms of CO poisoning include vomiting, dizziness, headache and confusion. Serious symptoms such as  loss of consciousness, permanent neurological impairment and even death can occur. Anyone who suspects CO poisoning should call their local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. The person suffering these symptoms may need prompt medical attention. The elderly, pregnant women, and children are especially vulnerable.

When furnaces are first turned on, its chimney must be checked to make sure it is free of obstructions such as nests, fallen bricks, leafs and other debris. Parents need to clear chimney flue clean-outs, and have an annual servicing of their furnace and water heater by a qualified contractor. Other potential sources of CO exposure include water heaters, gasoline powered equipment like generators, snow blowers, water pumps, gas ranges, kerosene heaters, and inappropriate cooking choices such as charcoal grills and camping stoves inside the house.  

Potential sources of CO exposure include furnaces, water heaters, gasoline powered equipment like generators, snow blowers, water pumps, gas ranges, kerosene heaters, and inappropriate cooking choices such as charcoal grills and camping stoves inside the house. 

Kerosene, butane and propane space heaters can also be a significant source of CO. The amount of CO generated from these appliances varies greatly depending on the general maintenance of the device and the fuel used. When these heaters are used in an emergent or temporary setting, without proper maintenance, they can be dangerous. Many poisoning occur during Winter Storms because people use their gas stoves and /or propane heaters to provide heat during power outages.   Also winter snow drifts can block air vents.

CO is an invisible, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating gas.  Without a CO detector, it may be impossible to tell whether CO is present or not. Every home should have at least one working CO detector. The best CO detectors for home use are those with battery backup and digital peak concentration readout. Always have at least one CO detector in your home near a bedroom and a second, if possible, close to the furnace. Detectors are readily available and can be purchased at hardware stores for around $20-40.

Author

Sheila Goertemoeller, Pharm. D. , Certified Specialist in Poison Information
The Cincinnati Drug and Poison Information Center

For more information:
1. http://www.epa.gov/iaq/co.html

2. http://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm

3. http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/carbonmonoxide-factsheet.pdf

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