January 30, 2008
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) officials are warning people trying to stay warm about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Invisible, odorless and tasteless, carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas produced by burning fuel such as gasoline, natural gas, kerosene, charcoal or wood. Inside, CO can come from a gas-fueled furnace, water heater, clothes dryer, range, space or kerosene heater, fireplace or wood stove.
“Dangerous CO problems occur when home appliances are poorly maintained or used incorrectly,” said Kay Soper, DSHS indoor air quality specialist. “Non-vented gas and kerosene appliances have the greatest potential to produce dangerous levels of CO in the home.”
Portable generators sometimes used during a power outage also may present a CO hazard. “These should be placed outside the home and well away from any doors or windows,” Soper said.
Smoldering or poorly vented fireplaces, slow-burning fuels such as charcoal and vehicle exhausts also are potentially hazardous. New homes, or newly remodeled homes, have higher risks for carbon monoxide hazard because often they are sealed tighter than older homes.
At low concentrations, CO causes fatigue in healthy people and chest pain for those with heart disease. At higher concentrations, however, CO inhalation causes impaired vision and coordination, headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea and death.
DSHS offers these precautions to help prevent CO poisoning:
- Be sure all appliances are installed and used according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Have the heating and ventilation systems professionally inspected annually.
- Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning device inside a house or outside near a window.
- Don't use an unvented gas or kerosene heater in enclosed spaces, especially sleeping areas.
- Never leave an automobile running in a closed garage or in a garage attached to the house even with the garage door open.
“People with gas appliances should invest in a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector.” Soper said. “CO detectors can warn people if carbon monoxide levels become dangerously high.”
Anyone who suspects symptoms of CO poisoning should open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and go outside. In cases of severe CO poisoning, call 9-1-1 for emergency services.
(News Media: For more information contact Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Public Information Officer 512-458-7400.)