Wilkes-Barre, PA (October 25, 2005) – Commonly called the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association. As winter approaches, PG Energy reminds customers that CO can invade a home without warning.
Most CO poisoning cases occur during the winter, when furnaces are running and homes are sealed. PG Energy offers the following information to help customers recognize the warning signs of harmful CO accumulations and exposure so they can take steps to protect themselves:
- CO is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and non-irritating poisonous gas resulting from the incomplete combustion of organic materials such as gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, propane, coal, wood, charcoal, diesel fuel, heating oil and almost any other combustible material, such as tobacco and paper. Any fuel burning appliance, vehicle, tool or other device has the potential to produce dangerous levels of CO.
- During normal fuel combustion, a nonpoisonous gas known as carbon dioxide is emitted; if there is a lack of oxygen to ensure complete combustion of the fuel, a poisonous gas CO is emitted instead. Exposure to CO reduces the blood’s ability to absorb oxygen. Low levels of CO poisoning result in symptoms often mistaken for the common flu and cold – shortness of breath, nausea, and headaches. With higher levels of poisoning, the symptoms become more severe – dizziness, mental confusion, severe headaches and fainting; very high levels of exposure may cause unconsciousness and even death.
- The most common causes of CO accumulations in homes include a blocked or poorly ventilated chimney, furnace flue or fireplace chimney, faulty or damaged heating equipment, and automobiles or lawnmowers running in unventilated garages.
- When properly maintained and ventilated, your natural gas furnace and water heater do not emit CO into your home. As a preventive measure, all appliances and heating equipment should be inspected regularly by PG Energy or another qualified heating contractor. Chimneys should also be inspected annually, since debris may hinder proper ventilation.
- Never use a range, oven or clothes dryer for heating. Never use gas or charcoal grills indoors, and never leave your car, lawnmower or snow blower running in a closed garage.
- The installation of a CO detector with an audible alarm in your home and garage is also advised. According to the American Lung Association, “Carbon monoxide detectors should meet Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. standards; have a long-term warranty; and be easily self-tested and reset to ensure proper functioning.” For maximum effectiveness, a CO detector should be placed on each level of the home and as close to sleeping areas as possible. CO detectors may be purchased at your local home improvement center. Be sure to follow manufacturer instructions regarding placement and replacement.
- If you have a CO detector and it alarms, open windows; ventilate your home with fresh air; and have your heating system checked by a professional. If your alarm sounds and you are feeling drowsy, nauseous or dizzy, leave the house and call 911 from your neighbor’s home – you may need medical attention for CO poisoning. If, for other reasons, you suspect CO exposure, it is important not to panic. If you suffer from chronic, flu-like symptoms, see your doctor and ask if it could be low-level CO poisoning.
Customers interested in scheduling a cleaning and inspection of their heating equipment may contact PG Energy at 1-800-432-8017, or their heating contractor.
PG Energy, headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is a natural gas operating division of Southern Union Company (NYSE: SUG). PG Energy serves approximately 158,000 customers in 13 counties throughout northeastern and central Pennsylvania, including the cities of Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport.