One of Winter’s Hidden Hazards – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

This winter has presented much of the country with a number of challenges.  One often overlooked hazard is the risk of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.  With so many regions experiencing power failures, families often look for alternative sources to heat their homes and prepare food, unknowingly risking the lives of their family members and pets. 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.  Every year, more than 400 people die in the U. S. from accidental CO poisoning. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.

How to Recognize CO Poisoning

Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

Important CO Poisoning Prevention Tips

Keep fire prevention in mind during winter storms and their aftermath.

For more information on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning:

For important information about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning during a power outage, see Returning Home After a Disaster: Be Healthy and Safe, Protect Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After an Emergency and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Fact Sheet (from CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health [NCEH]).

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