EPA Alerts Seniors to Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Winter heating season prompts tips on how to avoid most common cause of poisoning in U.S.

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- If you didn't know better, you could confuse carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning with the flu.

That's why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a new fact sheet out to help prevent people from becoming part of the 500 deaths and 15,000 visits to the emergency room caused each year by unintentional CO poisoning.

The sheet focuses on older people, who can be more vulnerable to CO poisoning if they have health issues, especially anemia or heart or breathing conditions.

Carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, is the most common cause of poisoning death in the United States. It is produced by gasoline engines, stoves and heating systems, and, without proper ventilation, the gas can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces.

The EPA says people can help prevent this by remembering "I CAN B":

  • Install CO alarms near sleeping areas. (Less than one third of homes have them installed.)
  • Check heating systems and fuel-burning appliances annually.
  • Avoid the use of non-vented combustion appliances.
  • Never burn fuels indoors except in devices such as stoves or furnaces that are made for safe use.
  • Be attentive to possible symptoms of CO poisoning.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.

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