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For Release: January 6, 2010
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning During Winter Storms

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) would like to remind residents that there is an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning during the cold winter months and to take extra precautions this winter. 

Carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges, and heating systems.  Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas, is inhaled in significant concentrations causing illness and/or death.  It is commonly reported after major power outages.  When alternative sources of fuel or electricity are used for heating, or cooking during these events, CO can build up quickly in enclosed or partially enclosed areas.

During a winter storm in January 2007, 66 Oklahomans were treated for CO poisoning, and 96 percent of these injuries occurred in the home.  CO poisoning had the second highest hospitalization rate of all injuries.  Two persons died from CO poisoning caused by a generator during a subsequent winter storm in December 2007 

To prevent CO poisoning, the OSDH offers the following safety precautions:

  1. Install battery-powered CO detectors in the home.
  2. Keep generators outdoors and an appropriate distance away from windows, doors, and vents while in use.
  3. Do not use generators, charcoal grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline/charcoal-burning devices inside the home, basement, or garage; and do not use gas ovens or stoves to heat the home.
  4. Check and clean fireplace chimneys and flues at least once a year.
  5. Properly install, maintain, and operate all fuel-burning appliances. All gas appliances should be properly vented to the outside.
  6. Do not leave motor vehicles running inside a garage attached to the home, even if the garage door is open.
  7. Seek immediate medical attention if CO poisoning is suspected. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, or nausea.

Additional information can be found at these Web sites: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/carbonmonoxide.asp  and http://www.ok.gov/health/documents/Carbon_Monoxide.pdf.

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