News Release

December 11, 2008

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Homeowners Looking to Cut Costs May Increase Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Cutting Back on Inspections and Increasing Use of Wood Stoves Pose Hazard

FARMINGTON, CONN. – As more people try to save money on heating costs this winter, the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning may increase warn experts with the Connecticut Poison Control Center at the UConn Health Center. “So many families are struggling financially but cutting back on inspections, maintenance and repairs for your furnace or fireplace is not the answer,” says Amy Hanoian-Fontana, the Poison Center’s community education specialist. “Neither is the use of other means to heat your home, such as using kerosene heaters, or charcoal or propane grills indoors.”

Without proper ventilation or proper combustion, heating systems can also cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or CO. Hanoian-Fontana recommends that homeowners have their heating systems, wood stoves and fireplaces inspected and cleaned, including chimney flues, and any worn or faulty parts replaced, to minimize the risk of CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide detectors are also strongly recommended. “Everyone should have a carbon monoxide detector in their living space and in their bedroom areas,” Hanoian-Fontana says. “People are especially at risk while sleeping. CO detectors are a simple and economical precaution that can save lives.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be caused by:

  • Faulty furnace operation;
  • Blocked furnace exhaust systems;
  • Charcoal or kerosene heaters;
  • Coal, wood or gas stoves;
  • Propane grills (NEVER use indoors);
  • Running cars in attached garages (even with the garage door open);
  • Tobacco smoke.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is particularly dangerous because you can’t smell, see or taste it. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea and vomiting, weakness, fatigue and confusion. Symptoms often mimic the flu, leading to misdiagnosis by both patient and physician. If several people in the household become ill at the same time (and pets, too), especially during cold weather, they may not have "just the flu" but carbon monoxide poisoning instead. Be suspicious of CO poisoning if symptoms improve when you are away from home. Severe symptoms can include convulsions and unconsciousness that can lead to death.

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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