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Time to check those carbon monoxide alarms in the home

As winter draws near and homes are shut up and sealed against the chill, it’s time to consider safety steps against the risk of carbon monoxide gas.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur almost anywhere and I hope Michiganders take this time to prepare and prevent this life-threatening issue,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in proclaiming Carbon Monoxide Safety Awareness Week leading up to the turning back of clocks this past Sunday morning. “Awareness about carbon monoxide safety is a top priority, and Michiganders are encouraged to learn about this poisonous gas and ensure homes and appliances are maintained to protect themselves and loved ones against possible poisoning.”

Annually, about 140 people are hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning in Michigan and across the United States, thousands are poisoned and at least 430 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. In 2017, the latest year data available from the MDHHS Michigan Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (MiTracking),126 people were hospitalized.

“Working carbon monoxide detectors save lives,” State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer said. “Only 1 in 8 families in the United States have a functioning carbon monoxide detector. Michigan residents should install a detector today to protect our loved ones from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and poisonous gas known as the ‘Invisible Killer; it requires an electronic sensor to detect.”

These hospitalizations for carbon monoxide poisoning are preventable when people are prepared. To protect against carbon monoxide:

— Make sure to have working carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home, including the basement. Detectors can be purchased at most hardware and big box stores. Daylight Savings Time is a good time each year to replace the batteries in detectors and push the “Test” button to be sure it’s working properly. Replace detectors every five years or according to manufacturer’s instructions. Use a battery-powered detector where you have fuel burning devices but no electric outlets, such as in tents, cabins, RVs and boats with enclosed cabins.

— Have the furnace or wood-burning stove inspected annually. Hire a professional to make sure it is functionally sound and vents properly outside the home.

— Never run a gasoline or propane heater or a grill — gas or charcoal — inside the home or in an unventilated garage. Any heating system that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide.

— Generators should be run at least 20 feet from the home. Never run a generator in the home or garage or right next to windows or doors.

— Never run a car in an enclosed space. If a vehicle is running, a door should be open to the outside.

— Symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide include headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea and confusion. At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause death within minutes. Those who suspect they might be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning or have a detector sound an alarm should head outdoors immediately for fresh air and call 911.

In addition, Michiganders are reminded to install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every floor in your home, push the button to test them regularly, change all alarm batteries every six months, and replace alarms after 10 years.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning, go to Michigan.gov/MiTracking.

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