Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Feb. 14, 2007


Oswego County emergency officials warned residents of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning in the wake of the heavy snows dumped on the county in the past 10 days.

"The heavy lake effect snow that's fallen, along with the heavier snow of the winter storm overnight, can block the vents of your home and trap carbon monoxide inside," said County Fire Coordinator John Hinds. "People need to make sure the vents to their furnaces, stoves, and hot water tanks are cleared of snow and ice." People shoveling snow from their roofs should watch to ensure the snow doesn't clog the vents, nor fall on propane tanks and gas meters.

"Also, the wind speed and direction changes forecast for this storm could cause drifting in areas where it doesn't usually accumulate," Hinds said. "Snow might accumulate against a vent that's usually facing out of the wind."

Fire officials are also concerned snow accumulating around a generator might be overlooked. "If there's a power outage and those generators are needed, the carbon monoxide they produce needs a path to escape," Hinds said.

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as CO, which is its chemical symbol. Unlike many gasses, CO has no odor, color, or taste, and it doesn't irritate your skin. Because it is impossible to see, taste, or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home.

At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and length of exposure. Medical experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.

CO gas can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances such as propane furnaces, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces, gas ranges, generators, small gasoline engines, and motor vehicles. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces.

Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

"People need to be especially watchful because the risks associated with this severe weather are higher than normal," Hinds said. "Make sure you're taking the proper precautions to protect your home and your family."

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