Cold weather increases carbon monoxide dangers
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 21:10
As the winter months approach, the Oxford Fire Department (OFD) prepares for the dangers of carbon monoxide incidents.
“Usually we will see an increase in carbon monoxide (CO) calls when the weather turns cool due to people turning on their furnaces for the first time of the year,” Oxford Fire Chief John Detherage said.
Although carbon monoxide poisoning has not seen any substantial rise in Oxford, the threat remains especially relevant to its residents, according to Detherage.
“Older houses [in Oxford] can have issues with worn out or under maintained furnaces,” Detherage said. “Blocked flue pipes and appliances that are burning at less than peak efficiency will increase the chance of carbon monoxide issues.”
Inhaling carbon monoxide causes the CO to bind with hemoglobin in the blood. As a result, oxygen is unable to bind with the blood’s hemoglobin. In low doses, CO poisoning results in flu-like symptoms, confusion and headaches, but in large doses it results in death, according to Detherage.
Although these issues are a very real possibility, there are several common ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Detherage.
“[People should] maintain their gas and fuel fired appliances,” Detherage said. “Make sure flues are clear and drafting properly. Don’t let your car warm up inside the garage. Start it and move it outside. Buy a CO detector and install it in the sleeping area of your home.”
This issue is not limited to Oxford, however. In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to roughly 80,100 incidents in which carbon monoxide was found, according to Ben Evarts, research analyst for the National Fire Protection Association.
“It’s often called the silent killer, due to its lack of odor and color,” Evarts said. “The most common causes of CO incidents are cooking, heating, and vehicles running in attached garages.”
Although reports of these incidents are on the rise nationally, it is actually a good thing, according to Evarts.
“One would assume a rise in these incidents would be a frightening statistic, but the rise is mainly due to an increase in people who properly install and use CO detectors,” Evarts said.
Installing a CO detector is just the first step, Evarts said. He also said those with older homes should maintain chimneys and fireplaces. People should also avoid using power tools and any fuel burning appliances in the home without taking precautionary steps.
“I have a carbon monoxide detector,” junior Justin Trau said. “My uncle is a fire marshal. He’s always stressed how important they really are.”
For more information on carbon monoxide safety, students and residents can find information at the National Fire Protection Association’s website, www.nfpa.org.