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Nov. 5, 2010

Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Increases During Cold Months

As the temperature goes down and the furnaces get turned up in Oswego County, it's important to remember the possible danger of carbon monoxide inside the home. Each year more than 400 people die from accidental, non-fire related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide, also known as the "silent killer," is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating gas. Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Director of Public Health said carbon monoxide is produced by burning fuels such as wood, oil, natural gas, propane, kerosene, coal and gasoline.

"Living in an area where snow storms and power outages are the norm, it's important for Oswego County residents to be aware of the dangers of CO poisoning," said Dr. Norfleet. "People should never operate a generator indoors, even in a garage, and they should never use a gas stove as a source of heat."

CO prevents the body from getting oxygen. Symptoms can be flu-like: nausea, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, sleepiness or weakness. In large amounts, CO can cause loss of consciousness, brain damage and death. If you suspect CO poisoning, open all doors and windows, get out of the building and call 911.

Make sure to have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris, causing CO to build up inside your home or cabin. Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors. Although these heaters don't have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside a home, cabin, or camper. Lastly, "Amanda's Law" requires all new and existing homes to have a CO alarm; it is best to have a CO alarm on each level of a home. To learn more about "Amanda's Law" go to http://www.dos.state.ny.us/code/coalarm.htm.

People who already have CO alarms in their homes should check to see if they need more alarms to cover the size of their home. CO alarms also need to be replaced every five years and the batteries should be checked often. It is recommended that you check your CO alarm's battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.

For more information on carbon monoxide, go to http://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm or call the Oswego County Health Department weekdays at 315-349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.

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