Poison Control Centers Warn of Cold Weather Dangers from Carbon Monoxide
(Alexandria, VA): The onset of cold weather greatly increases the chances for exposure to poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) gas as consumers increase their use of appliances such as space heaters and portable generators, warns the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). Every year, hundreds of deaths and many thousands of illnesses result from exposure to CO.
Among the numerous potential sources of CO are furnaces, water heaters, stoves, ovens, space heaters, wood and gas fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, portable generators and automobile engines.
"All fuel powered engines produce CO gas," explains AAPCC Board Member Edward P. Krenzelok, PharmD, director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center. "Although such devices are safe if used correctly, a malfunction or improper ventilation can make these common household appliances deadly."
Carbon monoxide gas is lethal, even though it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It may kill quickly or slowly, and the warning signs specific to carbon monoxide are also common to the flu and food poisoning. Even when it is not fatal, carbon monoxide can cause permanent damage to the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Symptoms include aches, dizziness, headache, confusion, and other symptoms also found with flu and typical cold-weather viruses.
AAPCC suggest taking some simple steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
· Have all of your combustion appliances and especially your furnace inspected and adjusted before every heating season.
· Have your chimney, fireplace, and wood stoves, and flues inspected before every heating season.
· Have chimneys and flues repaired as needed.
· Do not use charcoal grills indoors for cooking or heating.
· Do not use your oven for heating your home.
· Do not leave your car’s engine running in an enclosed or attached garage, even if the door is open.
· Install a carbon monoxide alarm outside of every sleeping area in your home.
Poison control centers around the country are prepared to respond with information and treatment advice about CO poisoning. To reach a local poison center call 1-800-222-1222. More information about CO poisoning may be found on the AAPCC’s Website at http://www.aapcc.org.