Health Department Reminds Vermonters to Prevent Exposure to Carbon Monoxide (CO)

For Immediate Release: Jan. 3, 2013
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health

BURLINGTON – Each year, 30 to 50 Vermonters are exposed to carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can be deadly during the home heating season.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of poison-related death in the United States, and it is preventable.” said Sarah Vose, state toxicologist for the Vermont Department of Health. “A properly functioning carbon monoxide detector near all sleeping areas is the best protection.”
Combustion fumes from portable generators, wood-burning stoves, gas ranges and heating systems can lead to a potentially fatal build up of carbon monoxide in places that don’t have a good flow of fresh air, or if heating systems are not maintained or vented properly, such as a vent that is blocked by snow.
Sixty-four percent of unintentional poisonings from carbon monoxide occur in the home.
“If your CO detector is going off and wakes you up, or during the day call 9-1-1 and leave the house immediately,” said Chris Herrick, chief of the Vermont HAZMAT Response Team. “Even though you may not see or smell anything the situation could be dangerous or even deadly.”
Symptoms can be mild (fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea) or severe (loss of consciousness and death) and the level of exposure, such as how long and how much was inhaled, influences the recovery and the damage done. Most people who survive CO poisoning recover fully. Some, however, may have delayed symptoms. Mental abilities can be impaired and permanent brain damage can occur.

To make sure that you and your family are safe from carbon monoxide poisoning:

CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and the sound of CO alarms. Make sure everyone in the home (including guests) knows the sound and understands the warning of smoke and CO alarms and know how to respond.

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