Safety – Alternative Sources of Power
Cold weather has been making its impact, and as continues to, people will continue to increase their use of furnaces and other sources of heat.
"If you burn fossil fuels in an enclosed environment – propane heaters, fireplaces, generators running on diesel or gasoline, even your standard gas hot water heater – if it is not properly vented, then you can have combustion byproduct gases come into the house," warned Shirley Louie, Associate Branch Chief for Epidemiology, Arkansas Department of Health.
"It doesn’t take a high level of carbon monoxide to incapacitate people. There’s not a warning. It’s called the silent killer. There’s nothing that would give you any indication that you’re getting exposed. Try to eliminate the potential sources, or ventilate the sources to the outside. People with fireplaces must make sure they're adequately vented. In many situations where you don’t have electricity, it is hard to keep an electric carbon monoxide meter running, The best solution is to avoid those situations that will produce gases inside a house," Louie added.
All fossil fuels (gasoline, natural gas, propane and kerosene, plus charcoal and wood) produce carbon monoxide when burned.
Inside a home, carbon monoxide is produced from natural gas-fueled furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, space heaters and gas ranges, and from kerosene heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.
"Any time you have anything that burns, any time you’ve got an open flame you can potentially bring CO into your living environment. Some people leave their gas stoves on in an effort ot warm the house, that can produce CO. There are lots and lots of sources. The goal is to try to keep it as low a level as you possibly can. The only way to do that is to prevent the accumulation," Louie said.
Here are some precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
– Be sure gas-fueled appliances are installed and used according to manufacturer's instructions. If an appliance pilot light goes out, do not attempt to re-light the pilot light. Contact a professional.
– Have your home heating system and chimneys, flues and vents checked each year.
– Do not use gas-fueled appliances, such as an oven, cooking stove or clothes dryer, to heat your home. These appliances are not designed for heating a home, even for a short time.
– Do not burn charcoal inside a house, garage, vehicle or tent to heat or cook; not even in a fireplace.
– Do no use unvented gas or kerosene heaters in closed spaces, especially near or in sleeping areas. Even opening a door or window does not allow enough fresh air to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
– Never leave an automobile running in a closed garage attached to the house; not even with the garage doors open.
– Do not leave the rear window or tailgate of a vehicle open while driving.
– Repair leaking exhaust pipes and mufflers on automobiles.
Carbon monoxide detectors are similar to smoke detectors, are relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased at department or hardware stores and on-line. Many fire departments will offer advice and help if someone has a problem with their carbon monoxide detector.