Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer during colder weather

As the temperature drops and Ohioans turn up the heat indoors, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas, is produced by burning various fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas, and gasoline. Improperly vented or malfunctioning furnaces, water heaters, space heaters, blocked chimneys, and indoor grilling can all lead to dangerous carbon monoxide levels, especially in the winter when homes are more sealed up.

According to the CDC, roughly 100,000 people end up in the ER every year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, resulting in more than 400 annual deaths. From 2014 to 2019, ER visits due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning rose nearly 50%, with deaths increasing by approximately 23% over the same period.

The increased use of gasoline-powered generators during power outages has also contributed to the rising numbers of poisonings. Hurricanes and winter storms have left millions without electricity for extended periods, leading many to use generators indoors or in a garage without adequate ventilation. On average, nearly 100 consumers die in the U.S. each year from CO poisoning from portable generators.

Moreover, the disproportionate impact of generator-related carbon monoxide deaths on Black Americans is a significant concern. CPSC data shows that African Americans accounted for 23% of generator-related carbon monoxide deaths from 2011 through 2021, despite making up a smaller share of the population.

In addition to the risks associated with power outages, Dr. Robert Hughes, an emergency room physician at University Hospitals, warns that people with inadequate heating are more likely to become victims of CO poisonings by attempting to heat their homes with stoves, grills, or fires without proper ventilation.

It is crucial to have carbon monoxide alarms installed in every floor of a home, as they can detect dangerous levels of the gas. Additionally, ventilation is key when using potential sources of carbon monoxide, such as propane or kerosene-based heating sources.

Historically, carbon monoxide poisonings have been a significant public Health concern, particularly with the rise of industrialization and modern heating systems. The dangers of carbon monoxide have long been recognized, and efforts to raise awareness and prevent poisonings continue to be important.

In conclusion, it is vital for everyone to be aware of the risks associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, and to take necessary precautions, especially during the winter months. Proper ventilation, the use of carbon monoxide alarms, and safe practices with fuel-burning appliances and generators can help prevent tragic outcomes.

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