As you try to keep warm during these chilly winter days, make sure that your cozy domicile does not become a deadly place that exposes you and your loved ones to carbon monoxide gas. The toxic gas is produced when fuel such as natural gas, propane, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. Managing Director of the Palmetto Poison Center Jill Michels says the danger comes when the gas accumulates in enclosed spaces.
“Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless non-irritating gas. You don’t even know it’s in the air or the environment and people don’t even know they are being exposed. Symptoms we tell people to watch out for are similar to flu-like symptoms like vomiting, achiness, nausea, and dizziness. Some persons may pass out from exposure to the gas.”
Carbon monoxide can cause permanent brain damage, other neurological damage, and even death.
Michels says infants and children are most vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. “The thing about kids and infants is that they have a faster breathing rate than adults so they may breathe in the gas at a faster rate, but it is toxic and deadly to everyone no matter if your one month to a 100 years old.” Michels adds that pets are not immune to the dangers. “Pets can also being exposed to carbon monoxide in the home and deaths have been reported where a person has been found dead from carbon monoxide exposure along with their pets.”
Michels says if you think you are feeling the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, go for some fresh air immediately. “If you can, call someone to check the air quality, but definitely shut off the heaters, shut off any heat source or appliance that can be causing the release of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide comes from burning fuels and if your furnace is working improperly, or you have a gas stove or gas dryer that is not vented correctly, any of those can be sources of carbon monoxide.
Michels says if you have any gas appliances in the home you need to install a carbon monoxide detector.
Michels says the Palmetto Poison Center receives about 150 calls a year on its hotline due to carbon monoxide exposure. Michels points out that potential sources that produce carbon monoxide are water heaters, stoves, ovens, kerosene heaters, as well as gas and wood fireplaces. “We certainly want to alert people this time of year if they lose electricity because of bad weather and you use alternative heat source like kerosene heaters, be careful.” Michels says carbon monoxide exposure can occur at other times of the year as well. “If your gas stove is not working in July, you can still have that threat.”
Michels says it it also good to remember to never warm up your car in a closed garage because automobile engines produce carbon monoxide gas.