Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Hazard in Your Home

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TOPEKA (WIBW) -- The arrival of colder weather means more homes will be turning up the heat with fuel-burning appliances. These appliances include furnaces, ovens, space heaters, generators, indoor grills and fireplaces that can unknowingly cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in the home.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2010 to 2015, an average of 374 people died each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States. In Kansas, from 2011 to 2015, there were annually an average of 146 emergency department visits, 22 hospitalizations and 12 deaths due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.

On May 11, KDHE updated regulations for the reporting of notifiable disease conditions, adding CO poisoning to Kansas’ list of reportable diseases.

"KDHE will use the reported information to better understand the circumstances of CO poisonings that occur in public settings in Kansas," said Dr. Farah Ahmed, KDHE Environmental Health Officer and State Epidemiologist. "This additional information will be used to determine if there are any potential interventions that partners can help devise to reduce the risk of another CO poisoning event in the public location."

“CO is known as the invisible killer because it is colorless and odorless,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of common winter ailments, like the flu. Without a CO alarm in your home, your family can be poisoned without even realizing it’s happening.” CO poisoning can happen suddenly or cause poisoning over a longer amount of time.

CO alarms cost approximately $20 and can be purchased at most hardware and retail stores.