Falling temperatures signal to Michigan residents that heating season has arrived, and with it comes an increased risk of carbon monoxide dangers. That’s why Gov. Rick Snyder has joined with Consumers Energy and declared Oct. 28 – Nov. 3 “Michigan Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Week.”
Consumers Energy reminds home and business owners to take preventive measures now that will provide protection against carbon monoxide (CO), a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless and can be produced when appliances aren’t operating or venting properly.
“The majority of carbon monoxide poisonings occur during the fall and winter heating season,” said Zach DeFrain, Consumers Energy program manager. “As one of Michigan’s largest utility providers, our goal is to ensure Michigan residents have factual information about carbon monoxide poisoning so they can take steps to protect themselves and their families from this invisible killer,” DeFrain said.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by the incomplete combustion of fuels including oil, propane, natural gas, coal, wood, kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel and charcoal. Deadly amounts of carbon monoxide can be produced by defective or poorly vented appliances that use these fuels such as furnaces, fireplaces and wood stoves, as well as generators and vehicles.
Never use generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage or near a window because these appliances give off carbon monoxide. Running a car in an enclosed garage can create lethal levels of carbon monoxide in minutes.
The American Medical Association reports that CO contributes to more than 2,000 poisoning deaths every year in the United States. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, there were 26 unintentional deaths and 986 non-fatal unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings in Michigan in 2010 alone. More than 60 percent occurred during the winter months and happened most frequently at home.
Exposure to CO poisoning can trigger symptoms that appear flu-like, including fatigue, headaches and general sick feeling, sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Other possible symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, shortness of breath, and stinging or burning of the eyes. Prolonged exposure to CO can cause disorientation, convulsions, unconsciousness and ultimately death. Carbon monoxide information in 16 different languages.
The best defense against CO problems is an audible carbon monoxide detector that meets or exceeds Underwriters Laboratory standards and will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are present in a home or building. Watch Video and Learn More
“There’s no doubt that the most important way to protect against CO poisoning is by installing an audible CO alarm. Theses devices are every bit as important to have in residences and other buildings as smoke detectors,” DeFrain added.
Underwriters Laboratory and manufacturers also recommend that any detector be replaced when its warranty expires.
Another good way to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure all fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and maintained. Furnaces should be cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician. Finally, venting on furnaces, water heaters and chimneys should be inspected periodically to be sure that animal nests or other debris do not interfere with proper ventilation.