Turning on your home’s furnace with winter’s arrival, lighting the fireplace to “knock out” a chill or running your car’s engine before leaving for a day of errands are all seemingly common tasks Michiganders do every day. However, they also carry with them the potential for a risky situation if not handled properly – carbon monoxide poisoning.

Often referred to as the “silent killer” due to its odorless, colorless and tasteless properties, carbon monoxide is a gas found in the fumes of fire and heat sources such as furnaces, fireplaces, stoves and car or truck engines. If exposed to this gas in excess, it can produce symptoms of poisoning including headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and the feeling of being disoriented.

According to the CDC, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized, due to complications caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. While carbon monoxide may not be easy to detect, avoiding the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning is with these tips:

  • Get your home’s furnace serviced annually to check for a malfunction that may cause a carbon monoxide leak and the chimney cleaned to avoid carbon monoxide buildup. While you’re at it, get all gas, coal or oil-burning appliances serviced, as well.
  • Test each of your home’s carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they work properly. If they don’t, be sure to replace all batteries or systems, as needed.
  • Even with your garage door open, never keep a vehicle running inside an attached residential garage. For vehicles with tailgates, keep vents and windows open to ensure exhaust isn’t drawn into the vehicle.
  • Never heat your home with an oven or stove as this can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide.
  • Check your home’s venting. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances should extend upward to prevent carbon monoxide leaks.

Get more information and safety tips by visiting our carbon monoxide awareness site.

Photo Credit: Abi Begum