Today’s tip: How to avoid carbon monoxide exposure
Because carbon monoxide incidents increase during the winter months, the Minneapolis Fire Department and CenterPoint Energy urge you to take steps to avoid exposure to this dangerous gas.
Carbon monoxide is created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil or methane don’t burn completely. Home heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel inadequately can be sources of carbon monoxide. Often called the silent killer, CO is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. When inhaled, it enters the blood stream preventing proper absorption of oxygen, which can lead to illness and even death.
How to avoid carbon monoxide exposure:
- Purchase a CO detection device with an audible alarm and digital display and install it no more than 10 feet from each sleeping quarter, as required by law.
- Have fuel-burning equipment regularly checked by a qualified technician (most manufacturers recommend annual check-ups).
- Never operate an automobile, snowblower or any combustion engine, barbecue grill or similar equipment in an enclosed area such as your home, garage, tent, fish house, trailer or place of business, even with the door open. Pollutants in the air from the garage can travel into the house and CO can accumulate.
- Never leave a fire smoldering in a fireplace.
- Check frequently for visible signs of problems, such as high indoor humidity and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent.
- Equipment that uses natural gas should produce a clear blue flame. A yellow or orange flame may indicate the need for a qualified technician to check for a potential equipment problem. When natural gas equipment is properly operated and maintained, it usually will not produce CO.
- Provide adequate combustion air for all your appliances.
- Be certain fuel-burning equipment properly vents to the outdoors.
- Keep vents, fresh air intakes and chimneys clear of debris or other obstructions and check for vent pipes that have gaps, leaks, or are rusted through.
- Never attempt to heat a room with a natural gas range, oven or clothes dryer
Indications of carbon monoxide exposure
- Physical symptoms of CO exposure can resemble the flu causing headaches, nausea, fatigue, confusion and dizziness that disappear when a person breathes fresh air.
- Unusually high indoor humidity with persistent heavy condensation on walls and windows and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent
- Stuffy or stale indoor air.
What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide exposure
- If you suspect CO exposure, leave the area immediately taking your pets with you and tell others to do the same.
- Once you are safely away, call 911 to report the suspected CO incident.
- Do not return to your home or building until the source of the problem is discovered and corrected.
- Treatment for CO exposure is fresh air or oxygen. Severe exposure requires medical attention.
Published Dec. 19, 2012