Michael F. Easley
Governor

The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina Carmen Hooker Odom
Secretary

North Carolina
Department of Health and Human Services

For Release: IMMEDIATE
Date: January 23, 2007

  Contact: Debbie Crane

Public Health Officials Warning in Wake of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Check your furnace and have working CO detectors

RALEIGH ¬– Five people in Greensboro could have died this past weekend when a crack in their furnace’s heat exchanger allowed carbon monoxide (CO) to leak into their home. That close call is prompting public health officials to warn about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially during cold snaps.

“This kind of situation is preventable,” said Kay Sanford, public health epidemiologist in the Injury and Violence Prevention Branch of the state Division of Public Health. “You should get your furnace checked annually to make sure it is in good shape, and everyone should install CO detectors.”

The Greensboro home did not have a CO detector. Carbon monoxide detectors are available at hardware and home supply stores.

Sanford says cold weather also poses other potential CO problems, especially during power outages. “You should never use charcoal to cook or heat inside a home,” says Sanford. “And, you have to be really careful when using generators. They should never be put in an enclosed space like a garage, or near windows, since carbon monoxide may leak into the house. “

Sanford says CO poisonings have also occurred when people left their cars heating up on cold winter mornings inside garages.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can often be confused with flu-like symptoms or even food poisoning. They include severe headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, mental confusion, nausea, or feeling faint. If you suspect carbon monoxide is present in your home, Sanford’s advice is to get out of the house immediately, get fresh air and seek medical help.

If you or a family member experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

  • GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.
  • DON’T IGNORE THE SYMPTOMS, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause. See a doctor to be sure.

For more information on carbon monoxide, see the Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet, “Protect Your Family and Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning,” at www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/coftsht.html.

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Public Affairs Office
101 Blair Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603
(919)733-9190
FAX (919)733-7447

Debbie Crane
Director