February 19, 2021

Michigan Poison Center issues carbon monoxide poisoning warning

As unusually frigid weather has settled over most of the United States, incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning have increased. The Texas Poison Center has reported more than 350 carbon monoxide exposures since Sunday. Many of the reported exposures are related to the use of charcoal grills in homes.

The Michigan Poison Center at the Wayne State University School of Medicine reminds state residents that with the risk of colder weather and heavy snow the risk for carbon monoxide exposure increases. Each year, exposure to carbon monoxide leads to more than 20,000 emergency room visits, 4,000 hospitalizations and 400 deaths in the U.S.

Carbon monoxide results when a carbon-based fuel (gas, propane, natural gas, wood, charcoal) doesn’t burn completely in a furnace, hot water heater, grill, generator or an internal combustion engine. The gas is colorless, odorless and silent. It cannot be seen or sensed by humans.

People exposed to carbon monoxide may feel as if they have a cold or the flu. It is 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 services to arrive.

Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, but infants, women who are pregnant, the elderly and people with chronic health issues are more likely to become sick. This is why it is important to have working carbon monoxide detectors on every floor in your home.

To install a carbon monoxide detector:

  • Follow manufacturer instructions
  • Install on walls five feet above the floor or on the ceiling
  • Place near bedrooms
  • DO NOT install near fireplaces or other sources of open flames

Additional steps to ensure safety include:

  • Have your furnace and water heater inspected every year
  • DO NOT use kerosene space heaters in homes or enclosed areas
  • NEVER run gas generators in your home or garage or within 20 feet of your home
  • NEVER leave cars or snow blowers 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, please call the Michigan Poison Center hotline at 800-222-1222 for free expert advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Media contact: Denise Kolakowski – 313-887-0287

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