MINNEAPOLIS – January 21, 2016 – Carbon monoxide (CO) incidents increase by more than 10 percent during the winter months. CO is often called the silent killer; it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas which when inhaled, enters the blood stream preventing proper absorption of oxygen, leading to illness and even death. According to the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division, municipal fire departments across Minnesota respond to approximately 2,000 CO incidents or more each year; including serious injury or death.
“Typically, CO is created when fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil or methane don’t burn completely,” said Tim Boettcher, master service technician for CenterPoint Energy’s Home Service Plus®. “Home heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel inadequately can be sources of carbon monoxide.”
“According to the Minnesota Poison Control Center
, there are thousands of deaths each year as a result of carbon monoxide, making it the leading cause of death due to poisoning,” said Bryan Tyner, Minneapolis Fire Department Assistant Chief. “Additionally, our response to non-fire related CO incidents increase by 10 percent during the winter, so the time for prevention is now.”
CenterPoint Energy together with the Minneapolis Fire Department reminds the public of important safety tips about how to recognize the symptoms and signs of CO exposure
- Flu-like symptoms including headaches, nausea, fatigue, confusion and dizziness that disappear when a person breathes fresh air.
- Unusually high indoor humidity with persistent heavy condensation on walls and windows and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent can be an indication of CO.
- Stuffy, stale or noticeably poor indoor air quality.
If you suspect CO exposure, leave the area immediately taking your pets with you and tell others to do the same. Once you are safely away from the area, call 911 to report the suspected CO incident.
Treatment for CO exposure is fresh air or oxygen. Severe exposure requires medical attention. Do not return to your home or building until the source of the problem is discovered and corrected.
To prevent CO build up:
- As required by law, purchase a CO detection device with an audible alarm and digital display and install it no more than 10 feet from each sleeping quarter. Fuel-burning appliances, equipment and combustible engines all produce CO that can reach dangerous levels if improperly operated or maintained.
- Have fuel-burning equipment regularly checked by a qualified technician (most manufacturers recommend annual check-ups).
- Never operate an automobile, lawn mower or any combustion engine, barbecue grill or similar equipment in an enclosed area such as your home, garage, tent, fish house, trailer or place of business, even with the door open. Any pollutants in the air from the garage, such as a car engine running, can travel into the structure and CO can accumulate.
- Never leave a fire smoldering in a fireplace.
- Check frequently for visible signs of problems, such as high indoor humidity and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent.
- Equipment that uses natural gas should produce a clear blue flame. A yellow or orange flame may indicate a qualified technician should check for a potential problem with the equipment.
- Provide adequate combustion air for all your appliances.
- Be certain fuel-burning equipment properly vents to the outdoors.
- Keep vents, fresh air intakes and chimneys clear of debris or other obstructions and check for vent pipes that have gaps, leaks, spaces or are rusted through.
- Never attempt to heat a room with a range, oven or clothes dryer
CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission & distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. The company also owns a 55.4 percent limited partner interest in Enable Midstream Partners, a publicly traded master limited partnership it jointly controls with OGE Energy Corp., which owns, operates and develops natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets. With more than 7,400 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 140 years.