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Carbon monoxide - the silent killer

The winter months are on the way. As the mercury begins to dip, some families, struggling to pay their heating bills, will turn on the kitchen stove burners and the oven in an effort to take the chill out of their home. What these families don't ...

The winter months are on the way. As the mercury begins to dip, some families, struggling to pay their heating bills, will turn on the kitchen stove burners and the oven in an effort to take the chill out of their home. What these families don't realize is how dangerous this practice can be. A gas oven or range top should never be used for heating. A fire could start and poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) fumes could fill the home. Any fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, space or portable heaters), generators and chimneys can produce carbon monoxide.

According to the National Fire Protections Association (NFPA), there is an increased risk of dying in a home fire during the winter season. December, January and February are generally the deadliest months for fire.

Often called a silent killer, CO is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas created when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil and methane, burn incompletely.

CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches.

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning, but infants, pregnant women and people with physical conditions that limit their ability to use oxygen, such as emphysema, asthma or heart disease, can be more severely affected by low concentrations of CO than a healthy adult. High levels of CO can be fatal for anyone, causing death within minutes.

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The goal of the Cloquet Area Fire District (CAFD) is to reduce the number of carbon monoxide incidents. If your CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window and doors and call 911 for help. Remain at the fresh air location until emergency personal say it is OK. If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries or other trouble indicators.

The CAFD wants everyone to be warm and safe this winter. Make sure your home has a carbon monoxide alarms.

Sarah Buhs is the public education coordinator for the Cloquet Area Fire District.

Related Topics: CARLTON COUNTY
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