Health Department Warns of Carbon Monoxide Dangers as Heating Season Begins

For Immediate Release
November 5, 2013

(INDIANAPOLIS) – As temperatures turn colder, the Marion County Public Health Department reminds everyone about the dangers of carbon monoxide. While carbon monoxide poisoning can occur at any time of year, the threat increases during the winter months when heating systems are used.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is very toxic and prevents the body from getting the oxygen it needs. Carbon monoxide is produced when a fuel, such as gasoline, wood, fuel oil, natural gas, kerosene or coal is burned.

Anyone living in a home with fuel-burning furnaces, water heaters, cooking stoves, dryers, fireplaces or woodstoves should make sure their equipment is properly installed, adjusted and operated. Flue vents and chimneys should be clear of leaves, loose bricks and mortar, or bird nests. This is especially true for fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Storing items too close to fuel burning equipment can be a possible fire hazard and restrict or completely cut off combustion air.

Automobiles and generators should never be operated in an enclosed area. Even with the garage door open, the carbon monoxide released can reach harmful levels and seep into the home. Generators should have an outdoor-rated extension cord long enough to allow the generator to be placed at least 20 feet way from a home. If a generator must be used, always be aware of any open doors or windows and the potential for carbon monoxide to accumulate in the home.

The Marion County Public Health Department is particularly concerned about the use 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 to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, especially any ventilation requirements.

From 2010-2012, Marion County hospitals averaged 45 emergency department visits per year related to carbon monoxide exposure. As of Nov. 1, Marion County hospitals reported 15 emergency department visits related to carbon monoxide in 2013.

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 or tired at home but fine when away from home.

The elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with heart or lung conditions are at higher risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms should not be neglected. If several family members experience the same illness with no improvement, ask a doctor to determine if the symptoms are a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and if further testing is needed.

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. voluntary standard (UL 2034). People who are unsure about where or how to install a carbon monoxide alarm should refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or contact the manufacturer directly. Alarms should never replace proper equipment maintenance and safety measures.

For additional information about the dangers of carbon monoxide, call the Marion County Public Health Department at 317-221-2266.

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Media Contact:
Curt BrantinghamMedia/Information Coordinator
317-221-2316 (o) │ 317-525-7450 (c)