Cold weather has been making its impact, and as it continues to, people will continue to increase their use of furnaces and other sources of heat.
"This positive source of heat also may increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning," warned Randy Maley, environmental public health specialist at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service (DHSS) in Jefferson City, Mo.
"Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless, tasteless and, in high quantities, is deadly,” he added. "Check to make sure your carbon dioxide detectors work properly." Maley noted that all fossil fuels (gasoline, natural gas, propane and kerosene, plus charcoal and wood) produce carbon monoxide when burned.
Inside a home, carbon monoxide is produced from natural gas-fueled furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, space heaters and gas ranges, and from kerosene heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.
State Fire Marshal Randy Cole advised, "The first line of defense against carbon monoxide is to be sure that all fuel-burning appliances operate properly." Cole urged that Missourians use carbon monoxide detectors.
Randy Maley cited early symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure. "These include headaches, dizziness, weakness, sleepiness, nausea and vomiting," he said.
He added, "People with heart disease may develop an irregular heartbeat. Exposure to higher concentrations can cause disorientation, coma, convulsions and death."
"Waiting for early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is not a substitute for making sure possible carbon monoxide producing sources are working properly," he stressed.
Maley emphasized, "In the past five years, over 3,000 illnesses and 212 deaths were reported in Missouri, that were caused by carbon monoxide."
Physicians and labs are required to report cases of carbon monoxide poisoning to their state or local public health agency.
Here are some precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
-Be sure gas-fueled appliances are installed and used according to  manufacturers instructions.
-Have your home heating system and chimneys, flues and vents checked each year.
-Do not use gas-fueled appliances, such as an oven, cooking stove or clothes dryer, to heat your home.
-Do not burn charcoal inside a house, garage, vehicle or tent to heat or cook; not even in a fireplace.
-Do no use unvented gas or kerosene heaters in closed spaces, especially near or in sleeping areas. Even opening a door or window does not allow enough fresh air to be prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
-Never leave an automobile ot tractor running in a closed garage; not even with the garage doors open.
-Do not operate any gasoline-powered engines (mower, weed trimmers, chain saws, power washers or generators) in enclosed spaces.
-Do not leave the rear  window or tailgate of a vehicle open while driving.
-Repair leaking exhaust pipes and mufflers on automobiles.
Randy Cole added, "Carbon monoxide detectors are similar to smoke detectors, are relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased at department or hardware stores and on-line. Many fire departments will offer advice and help if someone has a problem with their carbon monoxide detector."


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