Carbon Monoxide: Winter’s Silent Killer
This colorless and odorless gas escapes from faulty furnaces, as well as portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges and other sources. When the fumes enter an area lacking adequate ventilation, they become lethally dangerous. In fact, it’s the biggest cause of poisoning in the U.S. according to Mass.gov .
50,000 victims of carbon monoxide poisoning head to the emergency room annually, and out of those 430 never make it home. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that carbon monoxide poisonings spike in December and January — due in part to power outages caused by winter weather, which lead homeowners to use alternative power sources.
Cautionary Example In Lawrence
In November, NECN reported that a Lawrence, Massachusetts, family of seven had to be hospitalized after becoming poisoned with carbon monoxide. The problem began when the furnace in their home malfunctioned and the oxygen levels inside dropped.
The results weren’t immediate. Over two days, the family suffered from the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: disorientation, headaches and more. After summoning help, the family was taken to an emergency room where the staff was surprised there had been no deaths.
“All seven of us could have been fatal,” said one family member.
Steps You Can Take
Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to protect yourself this season. Here are some tips from the above sources, as well as a flyer from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:
- Install CO detectors and replace them every five years
- If using a generator, you must also have a battery-powered/battery backup CO detector in the house
- Don’t run generators, press washers or gas engines in basements or other enclosed areas — even with open doors/windows
- If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 immediately
You can also hire a vendor to install an environmental detection system, with monitoring services. Right here in New England, American Alarm installs detectors and provides 24/7 carbon monoxide monitoring. Time and again it has warned its customers about CO outbreaks, as the following examples illustrate:
- Last month at a hotel in Dedham, Massachusetts
- Also last month, in a school in Stratham, New Hampshire
- Last May, at recreational facility in Burlington, Massachusetts
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