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Science and the Environment

Mercy Sees Nine Cases of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Homes, Prompting Warning, Tips

Carbon monoxide detectors are essential for every home, say safety experts. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Mercy Hospital Springfield says it has already seen nine people in its emergency department with carbon monoxide exposure since the cold weather settled in.  As temperatures plummet and heating bills rise, many people are turning to  alternate sources of heat—and that’s prompting a warning from doctors. KSMU’s Jennifer Davidson has more.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly, even at low levels. According to Dr. Kenneth Larson, a trauma surgeon at Mercy, it can come from gas heaters, space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. A propane shortage across the Midwest has led to some people using space heaters or generators to warm their homes. And generators—like grills or other fuel burning device—can lead to CO poisoning if they’re not allowed to ventilate properly.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, confusion, and lethargy.

To protect yourself and your family, remember these three things:

  • You need a yearly and professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances. That’s because CO leaks can’t been seen by the naked eye.
  • Put any generator, grill, camp stove, or other fuel burning device away from a garage, basement or crawlspace, and away from doors, windows or vents.
  • Have a working Carbon Monoxide alarm in a central location of your home, and test that CO alarm monthly. If the alarm goes off, get to a place with fresh air and call for help.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 170 people die each year in the United States from carbon monoxide that came from consumer products.