LANSING, Mich. — As temperatures continue to drop, state officials urge Michiganders to take action to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide – or CO – is a gas that forms whenever a fossil fuel is burned and is dangerous because it blocks the body from taking in the oxygen it needs, according to a news release Thursday.
CO can cause serious illness or death in just minutes.
“Taking small steps like making sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector can make a huge difference if you’re unknowingly exposed,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include flu-like symptoms – aches, dizziness, fatigue and nausea. If you think you have been exposed it is important to get into an area with fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.”
About 50,000 people across the country visit emergency rooms every year for accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2019 – the most recent year data were available from the MDHHS Michigan Environmental Public Health Tracking Program – there were 1,090 emergency department visits for carbon monoxide poisoning in Michigan.
“Carbon monoxide is produced by many items people use daily,” State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer said. “Furnaces, water heaters, dryers, lanterns, space heaters, fireplaces, chimneys and gas stoves all produce this colorless, odorless, tasteless and poisonous gas known as the ‘invisible killer’ which requires an electronic sensor to detect. Michigan residents should install an inexpensive CO detector on each level of your home and test them every month with your smoke alarm.”
State officials offered the following safety tips:
- Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors, ideally on every level of your home (including the basement).
- Have your furnace or wood-burning stove inspected annually by a professional.
- Never run a gasoline, kerosene or propane heater or a grill (gas or charcoal) inside your home or in an unventilated garage.
- Generators should be run at a safe distance (at least 20 feet) from the home – never inside the home or garage or right next to windows or doors.
- Never run a car in an enclosed space. If a vehicle is running, you must have a garage door open to the outside.