Carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless, colorless and deadly. Every year thousands of people in the United States are treated in emergency rooms for carbon monoxide poisoning, and over 400 people die each year from unintentional CO exposure. CO is produced by any type of fuel burning; wood, propane, oil, kerosene, or anything else that burns. CO poisoning symptoms include; mild nausea, mild headaches, and shortness of breath at low levels, severe headaches, dizziness and confusion at medium levels, and death at high levels. It may also have long term effects on your health.
Fall and winter are the seasons when most CO incidents occur mostly due to improperly maintained or leaky heating systems as well as the lack of fresh air circulation in the home. Another source to be aware of are portable generators, which due to their lack of emission controls can produce far more CO than your car. If you need to use a portable generator or are installing a more permanent one for electrical outages be sure to select a site away from potentially open windows and ideally at least 25 feet from the house. Never idle a car in an enclosed attached garage as this is a common source of CO poisoning. Be sure wood stoves are properly vented and sealed, and NEVER use a charcoal or gas grill indoors. Other sources are gas water heaters and ovens, so be sure to run your kitchen fan when baking.
If you think you have been experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning get fresh air immediately! Open doors and windows and shut down combustion sources. Seek medical help and tell them you suspect CO. They have a blood test that can determine exposure if done soon after.
If you wish to have any of your gas appliances or furnace tested I have a CO meter which can tell us precisely how much CO a given appliance is emitting. CO detectors can be useful and are required in newer homes, but they can vary in quality so check an unbiased source such as Consumer Reports or Underwriters Laboratories (UL) when choosing one. For more information please contact Stuart Oberg, Air Quality Specialist, at the Trust Lands office. My number is 475-2415 ext. 35 and you can reach me by e-mail at soberg (at) boreal.org.