As winter approaches and temperatures dip, the Environmental Protection Agency is urging people to protect themselves against carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, and tricky to detect. But 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, and 20,000 more are hospitalized.
The EPA’s Indoor Air Coordinator Ron Schiller says that while most people have heard of carbon monoxide poisoning, many forget to do the checks that will keep their families safe. He suggests that people purchase carbon monoxide detectors, and more importantly, inspect their vents.
"Make sure that if you do have something that is gonna be burning fuel indoors—if you’ve got a gas heater, if you’ve got a gas water heater, woods stoves, the chimney—that it is vented outside properly," says Schiller.
Schiller says many people don’t realize they have been poisoned until it’s too late.
"Sometimes people are fully aware, ok, carbon monoxide is bad, but then they just forget and they leave a car idling in the garage without thinking about it or they bring a hibachi or a barbecue indoors because they want to use it to warm up the house. Sometimes people just forget that it’s such a dangerous thing," says Schiller.
He says if you experience flu symptoms you believe may be carbon monoxide-related, get fresh air immediately and go to an emergency room. And he says if you suspect a leak, but are not yet sick, notify the fire department.