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Colder months bring out silent killer in homes

Zillow • Jan 21, 2014 at 4:07 PM

By S.E. Slack

A man dies after running a gasoline generator in the basement of his home during a power outage near the location of the nation’s first school. A Norwalk man attempts suicide just months ago near Woodlawn Cemetery. What’s the link? Carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than 400 Americans die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Another 4,000 people are admitted to the hospital due to CO poisoning. Often, people are attempting to stay warm during cold weather and are unaware that CO is building up from the heating sources in use.

CO builds up silently in enclosed, semi-enclosed or poorly vented spaces. It is a produced anytime a fuel is burned; 65 percent of CO poisoning deaths from consumer products are due to heating systems. According to Kidde United Technologies, potential sources include gas or oil furnaces, water heaters, space heaters, clothes dryers, barbecue grills, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, gas ovens, generators and car exhaust fumes.

Experts said that chimneys should be checked each year to be certain nothing is CO fumes from escaping the home. When it comes to heating, especially during power outages, use extreme caution. CO deaths have doubled in the last two years because of misuse of portable generators during power outages, according to Kidde. Plus, some people think using a barbecue grill or portable gas stove for indoor cooking is safe, but both can quickly increase CO levels in a home and cause death.

Less than 30 percent of all homes have a CO detector, even though battery-powered versions are inexpensive and can be obtained for as little as $15. Experts say they should be placed near every sleeping area in a home.

On January 1, 2013, Ohio adopted a revised residential code that replaces the state’s previous building code and requires CO alarms in newly-constructed residential occupancies. The effective date was January 1, 2013.

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