Tuesday, February 6, 2007

It's COLD out there...Time to think about Carbon Monoxide Safety

With the subzero wind chills of the past few days, more Minnesotans have been hunkered down in their homes with the fireplaces roaring and furnaces blowing away. Unfortunately, some fellow Minnesotans will be exposed to carbon monoxide during this cold snap. In the past five years more than 2500 people have been hospitalized and 140 people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Minnesota. There are simple and inexpensive ways to protect your family from this deadly poison. The time is now to take those steps!

So what is carbon monoxide and where does it come from?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas produced when fuels like coal, wood, natural gas and propane are burned. This gas cannot be seen and does not have an odor. In a properly ventilated home, CO gas would go up the chimney flue and not accumulate. But poorly maintained appliances, tuck-under or attached garages, and even heavy cigarette smoke can cause a build up of CO when there is not proper ventilation. When homes are tightly sealed against the elements, there is a higher risk of poisoning.

How can I tell if I have been exposed to Carbon Monoxide?

That's the sad thing about CO poisoning. Most people die or become seriously ill because they think they have the flu. The initial symptoms are similar: nausea, headache, fatigue. When a person has been seriously exposed there is confusion. This combined with severe drowsiness is often a lethal combination as the affected person or persons cannot think straight and often just lie down and go to sleep without knowing that they are being poisoned.

In January 2007, a new law took effect requiring that all new homes and apartments constructed in Minnesota to have carbon monoxide detectors installed within 10 feet of each bedroom. Existing homes will be required to have them in 2008 and existing apartment buildings by 2009. But don't wait for the law to take effect. Protect yourself and your family by purchasing a CO detector with an alarm. For less than $40, it is one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones.