Carbon monoxide poisoning risks rise as temperatures drop

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COLUMBIA - The chance for carbon monoxide related deaths and illnesses is noticeably higher in the winter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 393 people died in 2015 from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Almost 40% of those deaths happened in December, January and February.

Assistant Fire Chief Brad Fraizer with the Columbia Fire Department said without carbon monoxide detectors, it’s difficult to know if the gas has built up.

“It’s very important the homeowners recognize the need for carbon monoxide detectors,” Frazier said. “They’re easy to find in any home improvement store, and we encourage everyone to have one on every level of their home, outside the areas where they sleep, and within five to 20 feet of a fuel burning appliance.”

Frazier recommends having a detector on every floor in the house, near rooms where people sleep, and five to 20 feet from any fuel burning appliance. Fuel burning appliances include furnaces, generators and stoves.

Another large carbon monoxide emitter is cars. They are especially a problem when drivers start their car in the garage to warm it up on a cold day.

“You don’t want to ever create an opportunity for carbon monoxide to get into your home, and that can happen with a vehicle even when the garage door is up,” Frazier said.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. Signs of poisoning include nausea, headaches, shortness of breath and confusion. If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, get fresh air and seek emergency medical treatment.