Education, awareness can prevent carbon monoxide poisoningThe Minnesota Department of Commerce warns Minnesotans of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and to take steps to avoid this silent killer.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce warns Minnesotans of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and to take steps to avoid this silent killer.
CO is an invisible gas that that can build up to dangerous concentrations indoors when fuel-burning devices, such as furnaces, water heaters, gas or kerosene space heaters, etc., are not properly vented, operated or maintained.
When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen in the blood stream and prevents oxygen from being used by the body. The higher the concentration of CO in the air, the more rapid the oxygen displacement and the greater the health risk.
According to the Carbon Monoxide Safety Association, for healthy people, symptoms of CO poisoning (headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and confusion) may begin at CO levels of 36-99 parts per million (ppm).
People at increased risk of CO poisoning include pregnant women, the elderly, people with chronic health conditions and people engaged in strenuous physical activity.
Physicians can perform a simple, noninvasive carboxyhemoglobin percentage test to measure the percent of CO in the hemoglobin of one’s blood. About 1 to 4 percent is considered normal for nonsmokers.
The Minnesota Department of Health offers the following tips to help protect people from CO poisoning:
• Install UL-standard CO alarms. Minnesota law requires CO alarms in every family and multifamily dwelling.
• Have a qualified technician inspect fuel-burning appliances each year to ensure they are adequately vented and properly maintained. CO testing should be part of the inspection.
• Do not idle cars in garages, attached or unattached. CO will accumulate even if the garage door is open.
• Provide adequate ventilation when using a fireplace, wood stove or space heater.
• Never use portable propane camping equipment and gas barbecues indoors.
• For a car stuck in snow, make sure the tail pipe is clear before starting the engine.
• During power outages, do not use gasoline engines or burn charcoal in enclosed spaces, including garages, even if the door is open.
• Never use kitchen stoves, gasoline heaters or other alternative methods to heat a home if suffering financial hardship. Contact the Department of Commerce Energy Assistance Program to learn how to apply for assistance to pay home heating costs.
For more information, visit www.cosafety.org.