During the wintertime, people tend to stay indoors more and are heating or working with fossil fuels, increasing the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Examples of fossil fuels include natural gas to heat homes, kerosene for heaters and propane used in forklifts and floor buffers. Fossil fuels generate emissions which includes the toxic gas carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless and mostly odorless and tasteless gas that can kill. Sources of CO include combustion devices (boilers and furnaces), motor-vehicle exhaust, generators and other gasoline or diesel-powered engines, gas space heaters, wood stoves, gas stoves, fireplaces, tobacco smoke and various other occupational sources. CO poisoning is a leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in the United States; it was responsible for approximately 450 deaths each year during 1999-2004 and an estimated 15,200 emergency department visits each year during 2001-2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CO is poisonous to people and animals. It displaces oxygen from the blood. Early symptoms cause headaches, weariness, dizziness and a reddening of the skin. There can be confusion, unconsciousness and death.
If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, everyone and animals should be evacuated. Call 911 and when the source is verified ventilate the structure or tent. Ventilate the area by opening windows and in cooking tents, the flaps should be raised.
Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by applying risk assessment principals.
• Inspect and clean tent flues.
• Never use a grill inside a structure.
• Install and maintain a carbon monoxide detector.
• Do not idle vehicles in the motor pool or the garage. Use the exhaust ventilation on the exhaust pipes in the motor pool building.
• Do not allow vehicles to idle in the vicinity of building ventilation intakes.
• Do not sit in any vehicle for long periods with the engine idling and windows closed.
• Maintained vehicles will reduce risks of leaking exhausts and combustion will be cleaner.
• Only use approved heaters.