News Release

October 5, 2004

Contact: Jane Shaskan, 860-679-4777

Lower Your Risk for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Health Center Toxicologist Recommends Inspection and CO Detector

FARMINGTON, Conn. – Properly functioning heating systems and the use of carbon monoxide detectors in the home will minimize the risk of CO poisoning and save lives, says UConn Health Center toxicologist Marc J. Bayer, M.D. “CO is particularly dangerous because you can’t smell, see or taste it. Each year in Connecticut, and nationwide, we hear about families that have succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Dr. Bayer. “Tragedies like these can be prevented.”

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning organic fuels that include oil, gas, wood, coal and kerosene, explained Dr. Bayer, who is also the medical director of the Connecticut Poison Control Center at the Health Center. Properly inspected, cleaned, and repaired heating systems can prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home. This can be especially important in newer, well-insulated homes that are designed to hold heat but can also trap CO, if it’s present. Inadequate ventilation or improper combustion in the heating system can also lead to dangerous CO levels.

The early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, and loss of muscle control. Symptoms often mimic the flu, leading to misdiagnosis by both victim and physician. Be suspicious of CO poisoning if symptoms vanish when you leave your usual indoor environment. Severe symptoms can include convulsions and unconsciousness that can lead to death.

“I strongly encourage people to provide proper maintenance for their heating systems, and that includes fireplaces and wood burning stoves, and to use carbon monoxide detectors in their living space, especially bedroom areas,” said Dr. Bayer. “People are especially at risk while sleeping.”

If your CO detector alarm goes off, or if you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside immediately. Use your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone to call your local fire department or 911.

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