Tobacco smoke, fireplaces, gas stoves and water heaters are just a few ways people get exposed to a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas known as carbon monoxide.
When this gas is inhaled, it replaces the “good oxygen” in your bloodstream. Too much of it can lead to heart and brain damage, as well as other bodily damages, according to Jim Beasley, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman. It can also cause suffocation or death, he said.
The gas is produced by either burning fuels, like gasoline or wood, or using malfunctioning or unventilated appliances. Such appliances can include unvented kerosene heaters, gas space heaters, leaking furnaces or chimneys, wood stoves or exhaust from automobiles in a closed space.
Severe headaches, confusion, drowsiness, nausea and/or vomiting, dizziness and fainting are all symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. People often confuse these symptoms with getting the flu, Beasley said. If infected, DHEC recommends immediately seeing an emergency room physician.
There are ways the poisoning can be prevented. Beasley suggests:
• Install carbon monoxide detectors to detect the presence of high levels of carbon monoxide in your home.
• Never use gas or kerosene space heaters or gas stoves in unvented rooms.
• Never use gas stoves or charcoal grills inside as heaters.
• Never stay in a closed garage with a car that is running.
• Check fuel-burning appliances such as water heaters, clothes dryers and furnace connections to make sure they are operating correctly and have a professional check the fireplace once a year.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and layout pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.