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The Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a threat, even in summer

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SATURDAY, July 5, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Just because the home heating season is over doesn't mean you're free from the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

While faulty furnaces, fireplaces and other heating devices make CO poisoning more common in the winter, it can happen in the summer. For example, improperly maintained gas-fired stoves, fridges, water heaters and other appliances in your home can be a threat in any season.

A car left idling in the garage can fill a home with CO. Riding in the enclosed bed of a pickup truck, or riding in a camper or a motor home also pose the risk of CO poisoning, says the Washington State Department of Health.

CO is a colorless, odorless, potentially deadly gas that is produced by incomplete combustion. Because you can't smell it, taste it or see it, it can kill you and your family before you have any warning that something is wrong.

Mild CO exposure can cause dizziness, headache, weakness, confusion, poor hand-eye coordination, nausea, visual problems and chest pains in people with heart problems. Prolonged or major exposure can result in unconsciousness and death.

The severity of symptoms varies depending on CO concentration, length of exposure, degree of physical activity, and health of the people exposed to CO.

CO poisoning is easily prevented. If you have fuel-burning appliances, have them checked and keep them maintained so that they function properly. Homes with fuel-burning appliances should have at least one CO detector/alarm.

Contact your gas company if you suspect a natural gas leak in your home, smell combustion fumes from your appliances, or have symptoms that may be caused by CO exposure.

Never run your car in an enclosed garage, and make sure to check and maintain the exhaust system on your car, camper or motor home.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more about CO safety.

SOURCE: Washington State Department of Health
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