Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas created when fuels – such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane – burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel can be sources of carbon monoxide, so make sure appliances are working correctly.
Carbon monoxide can be generated from fireplaces, furnaces, generators, power tools, hot water heaters, cooking appliances, gas clothes dryers, charcoal grills, vehicles and lawn mowers. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.
Every year more than 400 people in the U.S. die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, and nearly 5,000 others are treated for it. CO exposure especially affects unborn babies, infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with anemia or a history of heart disease.
Here are some CO safety protocols to follow:
Have your furnace cleaned and checked, including chimneys and vents, by a qualified service technician.
Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home near bedrooms.
If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle 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 snowfall, make sure exterior vents for the clothes dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow buildup.
Only use gas or charcoal grills, kerosene heaters and generators outdoors, as they can produce carbon monoxide.
Never use a gas range or oven for heating purposes.
Carbon monoxide detectors are just as important as smoke detectors and should be installed in a central location near each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. That way when one sounds, they all sound. Test CO alarms at least once a month and replace batteries every year. For your safety, install a battery-operated CO detector in fish houses also.
If the CO alarm goes off, immediately move all occupants of the house to a fresh air location and call the New Ulm Public Utilities Gas Department to check for a gas leak. There is no charge for this service.