FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ARB ISSUES CARBON MONOXIDE HEALTH ADVISORY
SACRAMENTO – "Already this winter, several deaths have been reported in California from carbon monoxide poisoning. While those tragic stories attract the most attention, exposure to lower levels of carbon monoxide can cause headaches, nausea, or heart pain. Those most susceptible include infants, small children, the elderly and heart and respiratory patients.
"Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that results from burning fuels. Each winter we hear of tragic accidents that occur when people are exposed to lethal levels of the compound as they use poorly vented wood or propane burning stoves or fireplaces in air tight buildings."
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by proper use, maintenance and venting of any appliances that produce a flame. Because of the danger from poor ventilation, kerosene or propane space heaters, charcoal grills and unvented gas logs cannot be legally used indoors in California. Care should also be taken not to operate car engines or other gas-powered equipment in enclosed or attached garages.
People who heat with fireplaces and older wall or floor gas furnaces should be especially careful. Fireplaces and wood and gas stoves should be checked for damage and cleaned each year before use. The ARB also encourages the use of UL approved carbon monoxide detectors that sound an alarm when dangerous carbon monoxide levels are detected.
ARB data shows that carbon monoxide levels rise throughout California in winter because the compound tends to disperse more slowly in cool temperatures. Levels of carbon monoxide high enough to trigger health complaints in sensitive people have been measured in covered garages and at busy intersections. The compound triggers responses in humans by replacing oxygen in red blood cells and depriving heart and brain tissue of enough oxygen to function properly. Extended exposure to high carbon monoxide levels can result in permanent heart or brain damage and even death.
A free fact sheet, "Combustion Pollutants in Your Home," is available.