Silent Killer Gears-Up for Winter Months

November 15, 2005

Contact: Jenny Savage (505) 272-3690


As New Mexicans crank up the dial on their heaters in preparation for the chilly fall and winter seasons, the number of unintentional deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning will begin to rise. Elevated levels of carbon monoxide pose deadly health hazards, especially to children, seniors, infants, pregnant women, and those with heart and breathing problems. Understanding the basics of carbon monoxide and following simple precautionary guidelines will help protect you and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide has been called the silent killer because it cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled. When inhaled, carbon monoxide prevents the blood from delivering oxygen to the brain and heart, potentially causing brain damage or death in a matter of minutes.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include tightness across the forehead, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, a rapid heart beat and dimness of vision. Dr. Jess Benson, director of the New Mexico Poison Center advises New Mexicans to invest in a carbon monoxide detector to act as an alarm. "Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed close to every sleeping area in your home and in your garage," said Benson. When purchasing and installing carbon monoxide detectors, stick to the following guidelines:

· Install an Underwriters Laboratories (UL)-approved carbon monoxide detector in every sleeping area and on each level of the home. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and keep the instructions in a safe place for future reference.

· If the detector goes off, leave immediately and call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for emergency treatment information

· If your carbon monoxide detector is battery operated, be sure to test the batteries regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions.

The New Mexico Poison Center Offers the Following Additional Safety Tips:

· Have all fuel-burning household appliances inspected each year, especially prior to the winter months.

· Never warm-up a car or leave the engine running in the garage, even if the door is open.

· Never leave a car engine running when it is parked or covered in snow.

· Never use a gas oven to heat homes, even for short periods of time.

· Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even in a fireplace.

· When a fireplace is in use, open the flue to ensure safe ventilation.

· If you think someone has been exposed to carbon monoxide, do not ignore symptoms. Get the person to fresh air and call the New Mexico Posion Center at 1-800-222-1222 for emergency treatment information.

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