Health Department Warns of Carbon Monoxide Dangers During Heating Season

Published on Friday, 06 November 2015 20:01

For Immediate Release
November 6, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen any time of year, but the threat is higher during the fall and winter months when residents begin heating their homes. The Marion County Public Health Department reminds everyone to know about the dangers of carbon monoxide.

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

Anyone living in a home with a fuel-burning furnace, water heater, cooking stove, dryer, fireplace, or woodstove should make sure the 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 fire hazard and restrict it from properly venting.

One of the biggest concerns is when someone uses unvented natural gas, propane or kerosene 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.

Symptoms of CO 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. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with heart or lung conditions are at higher risk.

Symptoms should not be ignored. If several family members experience the same illness with no improvement, ask a doctor to determine if the symptoms are a result of CO 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). Alarms should never replace proper equipment maintenance and safety measures.

Carbon monoxide dangers are not limited to heat sources. Generators should never be operated in an enclosed area. Even with the garage door open, the carbon monoxide released can reach harmful levels in 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. Even when generators are outside, doors and windows should remain closed so that CO does not enter the home.

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

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