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Thursday, March 8, 2018

WMCHealth Offers Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips In Wake of Winter Storms

We urge residents to take necessary safety precautions to prevent avoidable winter-weather emergencies.

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In the wake of two blasts of winter weather across the Hudson Valley, Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), urges residents to take necessary safety precautions to prevent avoidable winter-weather emergencies. 

Each year, more than 400 people in the United States die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including incidents related to portable generator use. Most carbon monoxide poisoning incidents related to generators are reported from use indoors or in partially-enclosed spaces such as garages.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and highly toxic gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels – gas, oil, coal, wood and other petroleum products used in boilers, engines, oil burners, gas fires, water heaters, solid fuel appliances and open fires.  Carbon monoxide enters the lungs through normal breathing and displaces oxygen from the bloodstream, interrupting the normal supply of oxygen in the blood, which puts the functions of the heart, brain and other vital organs at risk.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can be responsible for a wide range of effects on people exposed to even low concentrations,” said Kausik Kar, MD, Medical Director of the Hyperbaric Unit at Westchester Medical Center, which recently received Accreditation with Distinction from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society.  “Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can range from mild headaches and dizziness to more severe symptoms like nausea, fatigue, convulsions and finally loss of consciousness, which can lead to death. Often, the more mild symptoms may be mistaken for illnesses like flu or food poisoning and not addressed, leading to more serious and possibly fatal complications.”

People with heart or respiratory conditions, infants, small children, unborn babies and expectant mothers are at an increased risk for suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning at a faster rate. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers these tips – endorsed by Dr. Kar – to keep Hudson Valley families safe from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter. 

  • Have your home heating systems (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually.
  • Use generators only outside, far from the house, never inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open.
  • Never bring a charcoal grill into the house for heating or cooking. Do not barbeque in the garage.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating.
  • Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool. An open damper may help prevent build-up of poisonous gases inside the home.
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup in your home outside separate sleeping areas.
  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside to fresh air and seek emergency medical attention immediately.