Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives.

That’s one of the messages of Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Month, which kicked off Thursday.

“Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel,” said Orlene Hawks, director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. “As a result, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone if there are no safety measures in place. Take action today to ensure that your home is protected. Being aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and taking preventative measures are the best ways to protect your family.”

The National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Association recommends that residents change the batteries in CO detectors powered by 9-volt batteries every six months and test the alarms monthly.

The NCOAA also recommends that residents using CO detectors powered by 10-year lithium batteries test them monthly and consider replacing the alarm every five to seven years. It is important to check the specific CO alarm to determine the exact lifetime of the product.

“It is imperative that you have a functioning CO detector on every level of your home, near every sleeping area, and more than 12 inches from an interior corner to allow for proper airflow,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer.

Each year across the United States, accidental CO poisoning is responsible for at least 50,000 emergency room visits and 430 deaths. Seventy percent of CO poisonings happen in the home, but only 12% of families in the U.S. have properly functioning CO detectors installed in their homes.

Exposure to carbon monoxide may be particularly dangerous for:

— Developing babies: Fetal blood cells absorb CO more readily than adult blood cells do. As a result, unborn babies are more susceptible to the negative health effects of CO poisoning.

— Children: Children have smaller bodies and breathe more rapidly than adults, making them more susceptible to CO poisoning.

— Older adults: Elderly individuals are particularly susceptible to the negative health effects of CO and may be more likely to develop brain damage following CO exposure.

— People who have heart disease: CO causes direct damage to the heart, which permanently impairs heart function. As a result, people who have pre-existing heart disease are at greater risk for serious adverse health effects following CO exposure.

— Those who are chronically exposed to CO: People who are repeatedly exposed to CO can have more severe health effects at lower levels of CO exposure.

Follow these tips to ensure your safety:

— Do not use portable generators inside your home, garage, carport, basement, or any other enclosed space, such as a covered porch.

— Do not use charcoal or gas grills or camping stoves inside your home. Have your furnace or wood burning stove inspected annually by a professional.

— Do not use your gas oven or stove top to heat your home.

— Do note run a car in an enclosed space.

— Use gasoline-powered equipment like generators outside only and at least 20 feet from your home.

— Keep your generator away from doors, windows or air intake vents.

— Keep airflow for furnaces and exhausts clear of snow and ice.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, and confusion. At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause death within minutes. If you suspect you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, or your detector sounds an alarm, head outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.

Residents are encouraged to visit www.miprevention.org and www.NCOAA.us to learn about this poisonous gas and ensure homes, workplaces, equipment, and appliances are equipped and maintained to protect themselves and loved ones against possible poisoning.


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