Colder weather means that many people will use fuel-burning space heaters to stay warm, but an improperly maintained or used unit can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which can be deadly. To top it off, with families struggling to pay utility bills, many may try dangerous methods to keep warm if heat gets shut off.
Every year, hundreds of people are killed by carbon monoxide and thousands more are hospitalized with CO poisoning. It's a stealthy killer, as the gas is colorless and odorless. That's why in addition to smoke detectors, homes should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sources of carbon monoxide in the home include leaking chimneys, unvented space heaters, and back flow ventilation from furnaces that are old or unmaintained among others.
Home safety experts generally agree that batteries in smoke detectors should be checked twice yearly--usually when one is turning clocks forward and back to adjust for Daylight Savings Time. This weekend is a good opportunity to check the batteries in CO detectors, or to install them if one doesn't currently have them. The general rule is that there should be a detector for each floor of one's home.
As thermostats are turned up, be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning, which include dizziness, nausea, headaches, and drowsiness. If you suspect that your home may have unsafe levels of CO, leave the building immediately and contact your local fire department to investigate.