June 28, 2021

Michigan Poison Center issues carbon monoxide warnings in wake of recent flooding

The Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine reminds residents that power outages caused by recent storms and flooding increase the risk for carbon monoxide exposure.

Each year, exposure to carbon monoxide leads to more than 20,000 emergency room visits, 4,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths in the United States.

During power outages, many home and business owners use gas-powered generators. Other common sources of carbon monoxide exposure during warmer weather include grilling, boating, heated pools and motorized recreational vehicles. To keep everyone safe, never use gas or charcoal grills indoors, avoid using motorized devices indoors and properly ventilate indoor areas where motors may be running.

The Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine urges everyone to operate generators safely. Carbon monoxide production results when a carbon-based fuel (gas, propane, natural gas, wood, charcoal) does not burn completely in a furnace, hot water heater, grill, generator or an internal combustion engine. The resulting deadly gas is colorless and odorless.

People exposed to carbon monoxide may feel as if they have a cold or the flu. It should be especially worrisome when a group of people have the same complaints at the same time. They may complain of:

• Headaches
• Nausea
• Dizziness
• Tiredness
• Confusion
• Muscle aches and pains

Do not ignore these symptoms. Symptoms can quickly worsen and lead to death. Call 911 immediately if there is any possible risk of exposure to carbon monoxide.
Evacuate everyone from your home and leave doors and windows open while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.

Everyone is at risk, but infants, women who are pregnant, the elderly and people with chronic health issues are at high risk for complications from carbon monoxide exposure. It is important to have working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor in your home. Additional steps to ensure safety include:

• Have your furnace and water heater inspected annually
• Avoid using kerosene space heaters in homes or enclosed areas
• Do not run gas generators in your home or garage or within 20 feet of your home
• Do not leave cars running in a garage, especially if the garage is attached to your home

To learn more about carbon monoxide safety, visit www.mipoisonhelp.org and click on the “Education” tab for Fall Safety Educational Resources. Click on the “Resource” tab for more information about carbon monoxide from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you have more questions about carbon monoxide poisoning, call the Michigan Poison Center Hotline at 800-222-1222 for free, expert advice available every day of the year. Local calls:1-313-486-0078 (Michigan only).

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