October 12, 2010 Connecticut Department of Public Health
Contact: William Gerrish
Hartford - The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) warned residents today about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with malfunctioning heating systems, blocked chimneys, vehicle exhaust and the improper use of portable gasoline-powered generators. They also stressed the importance of installing a CO detector to prevent accidental poisonings.
Every winter in Connecticut, hundreds of residents are taken to the emergency department and some are hospitalized for treatment of CO poisoning due in part to malfunctioning furnaces and improperly placed portable generators. “These occurrences are preventable,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. J. Robert Galvin. “Taking preventive measures such as having your furnace serviced annually, installing a CO detector near all sleeping areas, replacing the batteries annually, and placing portable generators well away from the house, will prevent CO poisonings.”
A recent DPH survey of households in Connecticut found that while the number of homes that had a CO detector has increased significantly since 2006 (from 56.78% to 62.06%), 35% of households remain without a carbon monoxide detector installed in their home. Low income and less education are factors contributing to those households without CO detectors.
The survey also found that an alarming number of people who used portable generators used them improperly by operating the generator inside the home (9.26%) or in an attached garage or enclosed porch (5.44%). This is a dangerous practice. Gas-powered portable generators must be placed outdoors at a minimum of 20 feet from the house so that the fumes containing CO produced by the generator do not enter the home.
CO is an invisible, odorless gas that can be fatal. The symptoms of CO poisoning mimic those of the flu, including headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or loss of consciousness. If several members of a household experience these symptoms when they are home, but feel better when they are away from the home, there may be a CO problem.
Safety Tips to Prevent CO Poisoning
- Install a carbon monoxide detector near sleeping areas.
- Never use portable generators, pressure washer engines, or other gasoline-powered equipment (including tools) inside your home, garage, carport, basement or other enclosed spaces.
- Place gasoline-powered equipment outside and away from doors, windows or air intake vents.
- Use grilling apparatus such as charcoal or gas grills outdoors only.
**Opening windows and doors, and operating fans is not sufficient to prevent buildup of CO in a home.
- Get out of the house and seek medical help immediately if you or a family member has unexplained/sudden onset of symptoms of CO poisoning. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and loss of consciousness.
- Call 911 from a cell phone or neighbor’s home and the Connecticut Poison Control Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center (1-800-222-1222).
For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention:
CT DPH Environmental & Occupational Health Assessment Program
Connecticut Poison Control Center
Consumer Product Safety Commission
For more information on carbon monoxide detectors:
Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
For statistical information:
The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the state’s leader in public health policy and advocacy with a mission to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of our state. To contact the department, please visit its website at www.ct.gov/dph or call (860) 509-7270.