Unpredictable Weather Brings Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Risks

Contact: James McCurtis (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

December 29, 2009

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is urging residents to be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning when using alternative sources of power during an outage.

Due to recent weather-related power outages, Michigan residents are asked to be extra vigilant as they compensate for the lost power.

If not used safely, gas-powered generators, kerosene heaters or other alternative heating or power sources can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Residents are encouraged to seek shelter with friends, family, or at a community shelter as a safer alternative.

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, and odorless gas formed when fuel is burned. Carbon monoxide can build up to deadly levels within minutes in enclosed spaces and can only be detected with a carbon monoxide detector.

Warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include flu-like symptoms without the fever: headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause coma and death. Every year, hundreds of people in Michigan are hospitalized and 15 to 20 die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning when the power is out:

- NEVER run a generator inside your house or in your garage, and keep it away from windows and doors. (If theft is a concern, lock it to a tree or fence.)

- NEVER use charcoal or propane grills or camp stoves indoors.

- Do not use portable heaters powered by propane or kerosene indoors.

- Always turn off your vehicle in the garage.

- Place a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway outside bedrooms in all sleeping areas.

If you suspect you or a family member is displaying signs of possible carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately and call 911. For more information on how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, please visit www.michigan.gov/carbonmonoxide.