DPH Warns Residents of Carbon Monoxide Danger Weekend Storm May Cause Power Outages
With the impending storm predicted this Sunday the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) wants to remind the public of the dangers of improper use of portable generators and charcoal grills during power outages. Improper generator usage leads to unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths each year.
“Every winter in Connecticut, hundreds of residents are taken to the emergency department and some are hospitalized and even die due to CO poisoning resulting from malfunctioning furnaces, improperly placed portable generators and indoor use of charcoal grills,” stated DPH Epidemiologist Brian Toal. “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.”
CO is an invisible odorless gas that can be fatal and forms when fuels do not burn completely. Breathing CO can deprive the body of oxygen, and may lead to illness, unconsciousness and death. Often times, CO detectors are the only way to know that the deadly gas is present. DPH recommends that residents install CO detectors near all sleeping areas in their home to alert them of the presence of CO.
To prevent CO poisoning, portable generators should be placed at least 20 feet from the home and should never be used in enclosed spaces such as porches, carports, garages and basements, even with open windows and doors. Opening windows and doors, and using fans, is not sufficient to prevent the build-up of deadly levels of carbon monoxide.
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.
DPH offers the following safety tips to prevent CO poisoning:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home and outside of each bedroom. Install new batteries at least once a year and replace detectors every five years as the sensors degrade.
- Have your heating systems, chimney flues, gas appliances and generators checked every year, and cleaned and serviced as needed by qualified heating/appliance contractors.
- Never use portable generators, pressure washer engines, or other gasoline-powered equipment (including tools) inside your home, garage, carport, basement or other enclosed spaces. Be sure to place portable generators at least 20 feet from your home.
- Use 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.
- Check that gas dryer vents and automobile tail pipes are not plugged up with snow.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe on your standby generator is pointing away from the house.
- 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 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