Carbon Monoxide Offers Various Health Hazards

Created on Tuesday, 01 February 2011 15:22

Contact: Collette DuValle, 317-221-2463

The current winter storm poses many threats to health and safety, including the loss of power and homeowners using a variety of heating sources to maintain warmth. The Marion County Public Health Department warns individuals using various heating sources to be also monitor and be aware to the hazards of carbon monoxide.

Produced when a fuel (like gasoline, wood, coal, fuel oil, natural gas, kerosene, etc.) is burned, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that is very toxic because it combines with hemoglobin in the blood and prevents your body from getting the oxygen it needs.
“Homeowners with fuel oil or natural gas furnaces, natural gas water heaters or cooking stoves, and woodstoves should make sure their equipment is properly installed, adjusted, and operated. In addition to creating a possible fire hazard, storing items too close to fuel burning equipment can restrict or completely cut off combustion air. Flue vents and chimneys should be checked for blockages from leaves, loose bricks and mortar, or bird nests. This is especially true for fireplaces and wood-burning stoves,” said Jeff Larmore of the Marion County Public Health Department.

If you have a garage or shed, make sure to open the garage door before starting a vehicle or other fuel burning equipment like a snow blower. Never leave cars or generators running in an enclosed area. Even with the garage door open, carbon monoxide from a generator or car can reach harmful levels and seep into your home. And, never burn charcoal indoors or in an enclosed space.
Given the tough economic times for many families, the Marion County Health Department is particularly concerned about the use this winter of unvented natural gas, propane, and kerosene space heaters in addition to or instead of a home’s central heating system. It is very important that users carefully follow all manufacturers’ instructions, especially any ventilation requirements for combustion air.

While carbon monoxide poisoning can occur at anytime, more cases occur in the winter months with heating systems operating and widows and doors closed. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea, irregular breathing, dizziness, fatigue (not feeling rested after sleeping), confusion, loss of coordination, and blurred vision.

Victims of carbon monoxide poisoning often report feeling ill/tired at home but fine when away from home. People with heart or lung conditions, children, the elderly, and pregnant women are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Don’t neglect these symptoms. If several family members experience the same illness with no improvement, ask your doctor if a carbon monoxide poisoning test is needed, or if health symptoms are caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Marion County Public Health Department recommends that all homes with fuel burning appliances, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves have a properly installed, working carbon monoxide alarm meeting the requirements of the Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) voluntary standard (UL 2034). If you are unsure about where to locate or how to install your carbon monoxide alarm, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or contact the manufacturer directly.

While carbon monoxide alarms are important to home safety, homeowners must remember that carbon monoxide alarms should never replace proper maintenance and safety measures.