As leaves fall and colder weather signals the start-up of furnaces across Michigan, Consumers Energy urges residents to protect themselves against carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Often called “the silent killer,” the toxic gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless, and can be produced when home appliances aren’t operating or venting properly.
Gov. Rick Snyder has declared Oct. 20 through Oct. 26 “Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Week” in Michigan. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. The Michigan Department of Community Health reported that in 2011 (latest available data) there were 934 unintentional CO poisonings in Michigan, 22 of which resulted in death.
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 water heaters, generators and vehicles. Facts about carbon monoxide.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu, and include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and stinging or burning of the eyes. Prolonged exposure can cause disorientation, convulsions, unconsciousness and ultimately death.
The best defense against carbon monoxide problems is to install an audible carbon monoxide detector that will sound if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are present in a home or building. Tips to prevent carbon monoxide in your home/apartment.
Another 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.
If you suspect there is a carbon monoxide leak in your home, you should evacuate all people and pets, move to fresh air, and call 911.