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News | Aug. 2, 2023

Prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

By By Dr. Konrad Hayashi, Winn ACH Preventive Medicine

CO poisoning is entirely preventable.

When I was at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Carbon Monoxide poisoning struck close to home when one my staff member’s family was affected by CO poisoning. 

Their family went camping in a recreation vehicle, and due to the proximity of a generator, they were poisoned.   

A gasoline-powered generator reportedly released its exhaust close to their RV.  One of their family members died, others were hospitalized, but survived.   

Carbon monoxide is made when combustion is incomplete, whether from gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, charcoal, or even wood.  Exposure can happen from a break in a home heating system, a vehicle exhaust system, or from products like generators or heaters.  The threat rises when those products are enclosed or are in poorly ventilated areas.    

According to the CDC, (, CO kills more than 400 Americans each year, and sends over 100,000 to emergency rooms.
Since it is odorless, and colorless, CO poisoning sneaks up on people, and animals.

Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, and confusion. Individuals can exhibit other signs like vomiting, chest pain, and skin reddening. Most will have just a few symptoms.
CO poisoning often kills people in their sleep; but not always. If people are drinking, CO may poison a person before they realize it.  

CO Poisoning Prevention Tips
  • Check or change the batteries in your home CO detector every six months. If you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO detector, get one. Units can last 10 years before needing replacement.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician annually.
  • Keep vents and flues free of debris. Debris can block ventilation lines.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent, or camper.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open.
  • If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 or a health care professional right away.
For more information, please visit the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning website.
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