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EDITORIAL: Protect yourself from ‘silent killer’

The Journal editorial

News spread throughout the region Sunday of the sad deaths of four Jefferson County residents due to suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

Our thoughts are with the family, and we cannot imagine their loss.

But they are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that an average of 430 people die each year in the U.S. from carbon monoxide poisoning.

It’s imperative, particularly this time of year — when it’s colder and days are shorter — to understand the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide, which is an odorless, colorless gas, is often referred to as the “silent killer” — it kills without warning. It’s possible for people to have severe life-threatening issues, or even die before anyone realizes there is a problem.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when there is build up of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. When there is too much carbon monoxide in the air, the body replaces the oxygen in our red bloods cells with carbon monoxide, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are ways to stop it, however.

Exhaust from a generator contains carbon monoxide. Other sources of carbon monoxide include charcoal grills, propane stoves, charcoal briquettes, vehicles, fires, boats, power washers and other gas-powered tools. These items should never be used inside a home, or any other enclosed building, or even near an open window, or air conditioner.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these tips:

• Install battery-operated or battery backup carbon monoxide detectors near every sleeping area in your home.

• Check carbon monoxide detectors regularly to be sure they are functioning properly.

• have your furnace inspected every year.

• Never use a generator inside your home or garage — even if the doors and windows are open.

• Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors and windows.

• Don’t use a charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement or garage or near a window.

• Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.

• Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.

• Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.

It is also important to know the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide, the most common of which are: a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision and a loss of consciousness. Carbon monoxide poisoning is especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated.

Although symptoms of carbon monoxide may be subtle, they pose a life-threatening emergency, the mayo clinic reports. Anyone who thinks they or someone they know may have poisoning should immediately get into fresh air and seek emergency medical care.

Accidents happen. We can reduce the number of tragedies, however, by understanding the dangers — even the ones we don’t see coming.

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