Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 2/11/2019

Did you know that November, December, January and February are top months for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning deaths in the United States?

home heater furnace

These are the primary months when consumers crank up their furnaces and portable heaters to stay warm. Nearly two-thirds of non-fire related CO deaths take†place in those four cold weather months.

Portable gas generators are also used in the cold months because of power outages, due to snow and ice storms.

Generator scene

CPSC has joined with the National Fire Protection Association this year to warn consumers and firefighters about CO, which kills more than 400 people every year, according to the CDC. CO is called the invisible killer because you cannot see or smell it.

Here is what you can do to prevent CO from hurting your family:

  • Before using your chimney or turning on the furnace, get chimneys and fuel-burning appliances checked by a professional who services those items to make sure they are working correctly and vented to the outside properly.
    • Get a CO alarm. Better yet, install one on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas.

CO alarm

  • If you already have CO alarms, make sure they are working properly. Have you changed the batteries this year? If not, replace the batteries.
  • Replace CO alarms every 5 years or as recommended by the manufacturer. Newer CO alarms have end of life indicators that beep when the alarm is at the end of its working life and needs to be replaced.
  • Never use a portable generator inside your house, garage, basement, crawlspace, shed or in a semi-enclosed space, such as a porch close to the house. Generators should be at least 20 feet away from the house when in use.

Freezing weather and snow in the winter are a fact of life. Donít let CO take yours.

Posted by JoAnn M. Drabble on 2/4/2019

Signs of carbon monoxide†poisoning

Carbon monoxide enters the air through a variety†sources like car exhaust, indoor charcoal grills, furnaces and other devices powered by fossil fuels. Complicating its detection even more, the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble those†of†flu, cold or infection. A ringing in the ears, headache, nausea, weakness and/or dizziness all could indicate that a person is being poisoned by carbon monoxide. Because these symptoms are often associated with less serious illnesses, many people who are overexposed to carbon monoxide mistakenly think theyíre catching a seasonal bug. In many cases, the affected person will lie down or rest to feel better. Some never wake up.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can be especially problematic for young children. Because kids have faster heartbeats and accelerated breathing rates, carbon monoxide can spread through their bodies quickly and poison them in less time than it takes to affect adults.

The Boston Childrenís Hospital†Poison Control and Prevention Center recommends taking the following precautions to protect your family from carbon monoxide this winter.

Carbon monoxide poisoning - carbon monoxide detector

Install a carbon-monoxide detector on each floor of your home

A lot of people assume that one carbon-monoxide detector is adequate for the whole house, but, like smoke detectors, experts say every floor of a building should be fitted with a battery-powered or hardwired carbon-monoxide detector. Battery-powered models are as reliable as the wired ones, as long as the batteries are checked regularly and replaced at least once a year.

Change your heating filters before the cold weather starts

Experts suggest homeowners change the filters on their heaters before winter begins, so the air they heat their homes with is as clean as possible when daily use becomes necessary. Itís also a good idea to have a private contractor or gas company employee check your heating system annually to make sure there are no leaks and that any old or deteriorating parts can be replaced before they become a problem.

Shovel the venting areas outside your home

Natural gas is used to run a lot of furnaces and clothes dryers, which emit carbon monoxide that is then vented outdoors. But if snow accumulates in front of these ventilation areas the carbon monoxide may not escape into the air properly, sending it right back into the house. When shoveling a driveway or sidewalk, always clear out any ventilation hoses or grates around your home to make sure gases intended to go outside get there.

Carbon monoxide poisoning - pets can shpw signs before people

Check your pets

Animals are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning as well, sometimes more quickly than humans. If your dog or cat is acting sluggish, is unusually hard to awaken or seems sick, you may want to get the animal some fresh air, check your carbon-monoxide detectors and open a window just in case.

Never pre-warm a vehicle indoors

When the temperature drops to single digits, itís tempting to run the car for a few minutes before you get in it, giving it plenty of time to warm up. But if you park your car in a garage, the risks associated with pre-warming far outweigh the convenience. While itís doubtful anyone would purposely run their vehicle for anything longer than a few minutes in a small space, people occasionally lose track of time in the rush to get ready.

A few moments of absent-mindedness can easily lead to a car pumping out dangerous levels of toxic exhaust in a non-ventilated area. This is especially dangerous if the garage is attached to a home because the carbon monoxide then has the potential to quickly seep into the rest of the house.

JoAnn M. Drabble