Beware of the Silent Killer: Carbon Monoxide

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SILENT KILLER: Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless and tasteless.

Five deaths in Michigan during the holidays are being attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

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. NEWS STORY:  Furnace was leaking carbon monoxide … – MLive Flint

“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.”

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. The American Medical Association reports that CO contributes to more than 2,000 poisoning deaths every year in the United States.

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.

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.

“There’s no doubt that the most important way to protect against CO poisoning is by installing an audible CO alarm. These 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.