How to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning this Utah winter

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UTAH (ABC4) – As the colder months start rolling in, folks will naturally seek warmth with gas-burning sources. Because of this, the winter season poses a heightened threat for carbon monoxide poisoning. A joint effort by the University of Utah Health, Unified Fire Authority, Dominion Energy, Utah Department of Health, and the Utah Poison Control Center aims to inform the public of the potential dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas that is responsible for more than 50,000 emergency department visits in the U.S. and causes more than 400 deaths every year.

Officials say in Utah alone, there were 195 emergency visits and nine deaths related to carbon monoxide poisoning in 2020.

What causes CO poisoning?
When gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, and other fuels are not completely burned during use, CO fumes will build up indoors and poison both humans and pets who inhale the toxic fumes. Common sources can include small gasoline engines, camp lanterns and stoves, charcoal grills, gas ranges, and furnaces.

Common symptoms of CO poisoning to be aware of include headache, dizziness, upset stomach, vomiting, and weakness. Symptoms will disappear when you leave the affected area — something to be aware of.

How can you prevent CO poisoning?

  • Health officials say the easiest step is to install and maintain smoke detection monitors.
  • Make sure heating systems, water heaters, and any gas, oil, wood, or coal-burning appliances are serviced by a technician annually.
  • After heavy snowfall, make sure snow is removed from exhaust stacks, vents, and fresh-air intakes around your home’s exterior. Boats and recreational vehicles with propane stoves or heaters should also be equipped with CO detectors.
  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline/charcoal-burning device indoors. Generators should be placed at least 20 feet outside from any windows, doors, or vents.
  • Don’t run your car or motorized engine inside the garage, even if the door is open. This can cause dangerous levels of CO buildup.
  • Install an Underwriters Laboratory-approved CO monitor on each level of your home near sleeping areas and make sure to check the battery twice a year.

If you think you may have CO poisoning, quickly seek fresh air and call the Utah Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222, or 911.

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