Public health officials are urging caution during the recovery and clean-up stages following the massive ice storm that swept across northern Arkansas last week.
"We are especially concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning right now, as people without power try to stay warm," said Dr. James Phillips, Branch Chief, Infectious Disease Branch of the Arkansas Department of Health. "Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen within minutes, and it can kill you or make you very sick."
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.
When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes or winter storms, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.
Every year, more than 500 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning.CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by small gasoline engines, stoves, generators, lanterns, and gas ranges, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.
How to Recognize
Exposure to CO can cause loss of consciousness and death. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.
Important CO Poisoning
* Never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.
* Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
* Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open, unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.
* Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine outside an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
* Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
* If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
* If CO poisoning is suspected, consult a health care professional right away.
"We just want people to protect themselves and their families from the dangers posed by improvising ways to keep warm or to cook during this emergency," Phillips said.
Make sure a battery or electric powered CO detector is functional to alert you to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your home. If your carbon monoxide detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1.
Additional information about carbon monoxide may be found on the Arkansas Department of Health Web site at www.healthyarkansas.com, or on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/co/guidelines.htm.