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The Silent and Deadly Winter Hazard


    Carbon Monoxide poisoning can happen at any time of the year, but the danger is greater during the winter. Hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and thousands of others suffer dizziness, nausea, and convulsions. The gas is frightening because it's odorless and colorless.

    One of the most dangerous wintertime sources of carbon monoxide is car exhaust. If you are stranded in your car and you keep the engine on in order to run your heater, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear. If the pipe is clogged with snow or other materials, the exhaust could back up into your car.

    Any appliance in your home that burns fuel may emit carbon monoxide. Gas kitchen ranges and kerosene space heaters may emit carbon monoxide if they are not properly ventilated. Be sure to read the instructions on your heater to vent it correctly.

    Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, mental confusion, and extreme tiredness. Get to fresh air and call for help immediately.

    If you have several gas appliances, you may be constantly exposed to low levels of carbon monoxide. You may have mild health problems you haven't been able to explain, such as eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; fatigue; nausea; heart palpitations; or breathing problems.

    If you suspect you may have low-level carbon monoxide poisoning, call the local office of your utility company and ask them to check your gas appliances. Many utilities provide this service for free.

Sources:
The Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1989
The Nontoxic Home & Office, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, 1992

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