Lisa Pfeifer – OSU Ag Safety and Health Education Coordinator
Winter is a time when fuel-burning devices are at peak utilization, along with that come the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. The Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of State Fire Marshal, warns of following devices that may produce dangerous levels of CO gas:
- Fuel fired furnaces (non-electric)
- Gas water heaters
- Fireplaces and wood stoves
- Gas stoves
- Non-electric space heaters
- Gas dryers
- Charcoal grills
- Lawnmowers, snow blowers, etc.
Carbon monoxide cannot be detected without a carbon monoxide detector/alarm. It can present like any other illness. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 or consult a health care professional.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns, “Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”
What can you do to prevent CO poisoning? The CDC and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have extensive lists of guidance to follow to keep you and your loved ones safe. See the key points below:
- Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Place your detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming. Replace your CO detector every five years.
- Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
- If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it.
- When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
- Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.
- Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year.
- Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else.
- During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
- Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
- Never burn charcoal indoors.
- Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
- Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage. Only use outdoors more than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
- When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector in your home.