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Carbon Monoxide: A Winter’s Health Threat (Watch Video)
Appliances using natural gas should be inspected and carbon monoxide detectors installed
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SACRAMENTO - The Air Resources Board is urging Californians to guard against carbon-monoxide poisoning by having detectors installed and gas appliances inspected before the cold weather arrives.
On average each year about 35 Californians and 450 people nationally die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, and many more experience flu-like symptoms from exposure to harmful but non-lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that blocks the use of oxygen in the body. Young children and individuals with heart disease are those most likely to be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning. Warning signs of exposure to carbon monoxide are headache, drowsiness, nausea and inability to concentrate; these symptoms will go away when the affected person is removed from the area and given fresh air.
"Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, and tragically takes lives in California every year without warning,” said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. “We can prevent those unnecessary deaths. It’s a simple step to protect your family by installing detectors and having your local utility check your house for leaks."
More than half of all carbon monoxide poisoning deaths are from malfunctioning or improperly vented combustion appliances in homes. ARB recommends:
- Properly use and maintain any appliances that produce a flame, such as gas furnaces and gas and propane space heaters; this can prevent exposure to lethal levels of carbon monoxide.
- Never use gas ovens to heat the home;
- Never use kerosene or propane space heaters, charcoal grills, barbecues, or unvented gas logs indoors. These are dangerous and cannot be used legally in California homes;
- Use caution when heating with propane appliances, older wall or floor gas furnaces and fireplaces;
- Obtain annual check-ups of all gas appliances by a qualified professional;
- Use Underwriters Laboratory approved carbon monoxide detectors that sound an alarm when dangerous carbon monoxide levels are found; some also have warning signals or digital readouts to indicate lower levels of carbon monoxide that may indicate an appliance problem;
- Place emergency generators outdoors and away from windows and doors to prevent fumes from entering the home; and,
- Be especially careful with appliances in recreational vehicles and houseboats, and be sure to use carbon monoxide detectors specifically made for these locations.
A third of carbon monoxide poisoning deaths are the result of accidental exposure from vehicles running in closed garages.
ARB data show that outdoor carbon monoxide levels rise throughout California between the months of November and March because of little or no breeze which causes stagnant weather conditions. These levels have been measured in covered garages and at busy intersections. Rising levels of outdoor carbon monoxide may generate health complaints in sensitive people.
For more information on indoor combustion pollutants, see our indoor air quality guideline entitled "Combustion Pollutants in Your Home" at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/combustf.htm.
ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.