Protect Your Family From The Silent Killer

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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California's second annual Carbon Monoxide (CO) Awareness Week begins today and safety experts across the state are urging families to take steps to help protect themselves from this deadly gas, which often strikes when weather turns cool.

Odorless, colorless and tasteless, carbon monoxide is often referred to as the "Silent Killer," and is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Initial symptoms of CO poisoning mimic the flu and can include dizziness, headache, nausea and disorientation.

Data from the LA County Department of Public Health shows that California had 232 fatal CO poisonings between 2001 and 2006. In addition, the California Air Resources Board reports that unintentional CO poisonings cause on average between 175 and 700 avoidable emergency room visits every year.

"As winter approaches, most Californians begin using some type of indoor heating source," said State Fire Marshal Kate Dargan. "If those heating sources malfunction, carbon monoxide can quickly build up and poison those inside. Families using any type of fuel-burning appliance or tool should have a device to alert them of dangerous carbon monoxide gas."

U.S. Census data shows 74 percent of California households use some form of fossil fuel, such as gas, fuel oil, or kerosene, as a heat source -- all of which can emit carbon monoxide. Stephen McCombs of Chatsworth is one such homeowner.

"In the winter of 2006, our heating system malfunctioned, causing CO to build up in my home," said McCombs. "Yet none of my family members even experienced symptoms because of the quick response of our CO alarm. I hope other families in California take steps this week to make sure their families are protected."

Safety experts from Kidde, a leading manufacturer of fire and carbon monoxide safety products, offers these tips to help protect your family from CO poisoning:

-- Install at least one UL-listed battery-powered CO alarm or AC-powered unit with battery backup on each level of your home and near sleeping areas.

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-- Never leave your car running in an attached garage or carport.

-- Never use ovens or stoves to heat your home.

-- Never use charcoal or gas grills inside or operate one outdoors near a window where CO fumes could seep in through a window.

-- Have a licensed professional inspect heating systems and other fuel-burning appliances annually.

-- Install fuel-burning appliances properly and operate according to the manufacturer's instructions.

-- Keep chimneys clear of animal nests, leaves and residue to ensure proper venting. Have all fireplaces cleaned and inspected annually

-- Do not block or seal shut the exhaust flues or ducts used by water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.

-- Check all carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Do they use the most accurate sensing technology? Do they need new batteries?

-- Replace CO alarms every seven years to benefit from the latest technology upgrades.

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