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CenterPoint Energy offers guidelines to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Be safe this heating season

MINNEAPOLIS - Nov. 24, 2009 - CenterPoint Energy would like to remind the public of important safety guidelines to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Practicing CO safety is important and can prevent CO from becoming a problem in your home or business. Emergency response to incidents involving CO poisoning have increased with the arrival of the heating season. Fuel-burning appliances, furnaces and automobiles all produce CO that can reach dangerous levels if not used correctly or are improperly maintained and should be inspected by a qualified technician at the start of the heating season. Purchase a CO detection device with an audible alarm and digital display, install it 10 feet from each bedroom as required by law, change the batteries as necessary and check for proper operation.

Children and people with anemia, respiratory disease and the elderly are especially vulnerable when exposed to CO. CO is a poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating. When inhaled, CO combines with the blood restricting proper absorption of oxygen which can cause illness and even death. There are several ways to tell if CO is present:

  • Physical symptoms of CO exposure can resemble the flu causing headaches, nausea, fatigue, blurred vision, confusion and dizziness that disappear when a person leaves home or 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
  • Stuffy or stale indoor air

To prevent CO buildup:

  • Have fuel-burning equipment, including furnaces, gas water heaters, gas dryers, gas ovens and fireplaces regularly checked by a qualified technician (most manufacturers recommend annual check-ups).
  • Equipment that uses natural gas should have adequate combustion air, be properly vented outdoors and produce a clear blue flame. A yellow or orange flame may indicate a problem. When natural gas equipment is properly operated and maintained, it usually will not produce CO.
  • Never operate an automobile, lawn mower or any combustion engine, or 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.
  • Keep vents, fresh air intake(s), 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 natural gas range, oven or clothes dryer.
  • Check frequently for visible signs of problems, such as high indoor humidity, or soot or water collecting near a burner or vent.

If you suspect CO exposure, leave the area immediately taking all occupants with you and call 911 to report the suspected CO incident. Severe exposure requires medical attention. Treatment for CO exposure is fresh air or oxygen. Never enter an unventilated structure believed to be rich in CO without proper personal protective equipment. Do not return to your home or building until the source of the problem is discovered and corrected.

For more information about natural gas safety, visit www.centerpointenergy.com/besafe   or call 1-800-245-2377.

CenterPoint Energy, Inc., headquartered in Houston, Texas, is a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution, competitive natural gas sales and services, interstate pipelines and field services operations. The company serves more than five million metered customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. Assets total nearly $19 billion. With about 8,800 employees, CenterPoint Energy and its predecessor companies have been in business for more than 135 years. In Minnesota, CenterPoint Energy is the state’s largest natural gas distribution utility, serving nearly 790,000 customers in 260 communities. The utility also operates a non-regulated business in Minnesota called Home Service Plus®. For more information, visit the Web site at www.CenterPointEnergy.com.