News & Events

EPA Introduces Resource to Help Older Adults Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

(Washington, D.C. - Jan. 13, 2009) Do you know how to tell the difference between carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the flu? The answer to this and other questions about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning can be found in a new fact sheet developed by EPA.

Symptoms could be the result of CO poisoning when you feel better when you are away from home or the symptoms occur or get worse shortly after turning on a fuel-burning device or running a vehicle in an attached garage.

Carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, is the most common cause of poisoning death in the United States. Unintentional CO poisonings are responsible for about 500 deaths and 15,000 visits to the emergency room each year. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by installing a carbon monoxide alarm, yet less than one third of homes have them installed.

Everyone is at risk of being poisoned by CO exposure. Older adults with health conditions such as chronic heart disease, anemia or respiratory problems are even more susceptible. Devices that produce CO include cars, boats, gasoline engines, stoves and heating systems. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces.

An easy way to remember how you can prevent CO poisoning are the letters I CAN B.

* Install CO alarms near sleeping areas.
* Check heating systems and fuel-burning appliances annually.
* Avoid the use of non-vented combustion appliances.
* Never burn fuels indoors except in devices such as stoves or furnaces that are made for safe use.
* Be attentive to possible symptoms of CO poisoning.

This is the 8th fact sheet in a series of educational information for older adults and their caregivers about preventing exposure to harmful environmental hazards.

More information on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning: http://www.epa.gov/aging/resources/factsheets/pcmp/index.htm