Officials warn of increased risk of carbon monoxide in winter | News, sports, jobs

Courtesy Business Wire via AP

The Knox Safety Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarm is the only one that tells you what to do in a CO emergency with visual and voice alarms in English or Spanish.

Every year in America, more than 5,000 people visit the emergency room for carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 400 people die from the “silent killer”.

In 2020, 195 people were treated in the Utah emergency room and nine people were killed.

In winter, the risk of CO poisoning increases. Local health care workers, fire fighters, and health officials have come together to remind people to take every step possible to stay safe – and stay alive.

“Unfortunately, we deal with carbon monoxide issues on a regular basis,” said Ogden City Fire Marshal Kevin Rown. “We see some people who have gotten quite sick, but we also go to calls that have set off the detector.”

Rown said the danger from CO is the fact that it cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. “The big danger is that if you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, you think you can get something and go to sleep and never wake up,” he said.

Dr. Joan Balcombe, ambulance doctor at Ogden Regional Medical Center, said the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are weakness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, dull headache and confusion, most commonly referred to as the flu.

Balcombe said that it can also cause problems with your eyesight, taste, smell, and hearing. In rare cases, nerve and sensory damage that mimics Parkinson’s disease and its symptoms can occur.

“It can affect the brain by causing damage from a lack of oxygen,” she said. “It can damage the heart and lead to long-term defects and complications, as well as birth defects or fetal death.”

Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas that is produced when gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene and other fuels are not completely burned during use. The Utah Department of Health lists automobile exhausts as a common source of CO, but small gasoline engines, camping lights and stoves, charcoal grills, gas stoves, and stoves also produce it. If these do not work properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can build up in enclosed spaces and poison the people and pets who breathe it.

“It can make you sick in minutes or up to an hour, depending on how much carbon monoxide you’re exposed to,” said Rown.

Balcombe said hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the best treatment for CO poisoning and has the fastest and best results for recovery. During treatment, the patient lies in a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber, in which the air pressure is increased up to three times normal air pressure. With this form of treatment, the lungs breathe in pure oxygen. “Prevention is key,” she said.

“Be aware of your surroundings and always check your equipment, which could be a major source of carbon monoxide, to ensure working capacity and keeping it up properly,” said Balcombe. “Never use a propane heater or cooking appliance without adequate ventilation.”

Rown added that having a carbon monoxide alarm on every floor of your home is also important. If you suspect CO poisoning, get some fresh air quickly and call the Utah Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911.

Here are some more tips from the Utah Department of Health for preventing CO poisoning:

  • Heating systems, water heaters, and all other gas, oil, wood, or coal appliances should be serviced by a licensed technician every year.
  • Install an Underwriters Laboratory-approved CO monitor near sleeping areas on every level of your home. Check or replace the battery twice a year. (As a reminder, do this if you change the time of your clocks in the spring and fall.) Boats and RVs with propane stoves or heaters should also have CO detectors.
  • Inspect your home after heavy snowfall and make sure the snow is cleared from the chimneys, vents, and fresh air intakes.
  • If your CO monitor keeps sounding the alarm, leave your home and call 911 or your local natural gas company.
  • Get medical help right away if you suspect CO poisoning and feel dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous. Immediately call the poison number 1-800-222-1222.
  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camping stove, or other gasoline or charcoal burner in your home, basement, or garage. Generators should be located outside of at least 20 feet of windows, doors, or vents.
  • Do not drive a car, truck, or other motorized vehicle in a garage attached to your home, even with the door open.
  • Do not burn anything in an unventilated stove or fireplace.
  • Do not heat your home with a natural gas stove.


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