Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Winter Hazard

By: From 13 News, KDHE, Posted by Ralph Hipp
By: From 13 News, KDHE, Posted by Ralph Hipp


TOPEKA -- With the arrival of the holiday season comes the arrival of colder weather, as well as an increase in the number of fuel-burning appliances being used in the home. These appliances include furnaces, ovens, space heaters, generators, indoor grills and fireplaces, and they can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in the home.

According to a study from 2004 to 2006, children younger than 5 years old have the highest estimated rate of CO-related visits to the emergency room each year among all age groups in the United States. Nationally, more than 25 children die from CO poisoning every year. In Kansas, over 500 people have been hospitalized and 4 people have died from CO poisoning over the past 10 years.

“Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer that often strikes us where we feel most secure, in our homes,” says Tom Langer, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). “Faulty heating systems, water heaters, stoves and our cars are leading sources of combustion gases that can quickly overwhelm us and do us great harm.”

Important safety tips to protect families from CO poisoning:

· Prevent CO buildup in the first place - make sure heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas.

· Don’t run a car engine in the garage, even with the garage doors open. If you need to warm up your vehicle, move it outside first.

· Install a CO alarm outside every sleeping area, on every level of your home and at least 15 feet away from every fuel-burning appliance.

· When you check your smoke alarm batteries each month, check the batteries on your CO alarms at the same time – and replace the batteries twice a year.

· Never use an oven for heating.

· Portable generators must be used outside for proper ventilation. They cannot be used indoors or inside of a garage.

· Have all gas, oil or coal burning appliances inspected by a technician every year to ensure they’re working correctly and are properly ventilated.

If more than one person in the home suddenly feels ill for no apparent reason, or if a CO alarm goes off, get everyone outside immediately and call 911 from a pre-arranged meeting place.

“CO alarms are widely available at hardware and retail stores for about $20,” says Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “Because the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to that of the flu, it’s important to have early detection of this invisible danger in the home before it’s too late.”


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