Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Guard your household against a poisonous intruder
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 20, 2006) – With another heating season upon us, State Fire Marshal Rodney Raby and the director of the Division of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, Nelson Henderson, urge Kentuckians to learn about the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide alarms have been growing in popularity, but it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.
Carbon monoxide kills 200 to 300 people each year in the United States. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer – an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking units that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.
The dangers of carbon monoxide exposure vary in severity according to the victim’s health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women and people with conditions that limit the body’s ability to use oxygen – emphysema, asthma and heart disease are examples – can be severely affected at lower concentrations of carbon monoxide. Poisoning can occur slowly – a low level of carbon monoxide over a long period – or rapidly at a high level.
Symptoms mimic those of common ailments. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be mistaken for the flu or food poisoning. Symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, headache, dizziness, blurred vision or light headedness. Don’t ignore symptoms, especially if more than one person in the home is feeling them.
If you think you are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning you should get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house. Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
Safety tips inside the home:
- Install carbon monoxide alarms listed by an independent testing laboratory. Alarms should be in a central location outside each sleeping area. If bedrooms are spaced apart, each area will need an alarm.
- Call your local fire department's nonemergency number to find out what number to call if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds. Post that number by your telephone(s). Make sure everyone in the household knows the difference between the fire emergency and carbon monoxide emergency numbers (if there is a difference).
- Test carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month and replace them according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference in sounds.
- Have fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood and coal stoves, space or portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in.
- When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select products tested and labeled by an independent testing laboratory.
- When using a fireplace, open the flue for adequate ventilation.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- When buying an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house.
Safety tips outside the home:
- If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle, generator or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
- During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
- Never use barbecue grills – which can produce carbon monoxide – in the home, garage or near building openings. Use them only outdoors.
- When camping, remember to use battery-powered lights in tents, trailers and motor homes.