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Carbon monoxide risk management.

With the onset of cold weather, many of us will soon be switching on our heating systems. Beware! If you have not maintained your heating equipment, this single act can kill you.

Carbon monoxide (GO) is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas that results from incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood, and coal. It can kill you and your family. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), CO poisoning associated with fuel-burning appliances kills nearly 300 people in their homes each year.

Service members are not immune. One marine and one sailor and his four dependents died as a result of CO poisoning during fiscal year 1998 to 2000. The petty officer and his family died after turning on their gas furnace the first night temperatures dropped.

CO is so dangerous you cannot take anything for granted. The old maxim "if something can go wrong, it will" applies equally to home heating appliances. Be proactive. Use the risk management process to prevent poisoning. Here's how:

Identify hazards. Inspect your heating system for such things as a faulty furnace/heater, closed fresh make-up air return, dirty clogged

filters, blocked return air registers, inadequate ventilation, blocked chimney flue, or inoperative CO alarms. Certain plastic furnace vent pipes have been identified in a recall by CPSC and require replacement.

Assess risks. CO is likely to cause death as exposure time and concentration increases.

Make risk decisions. Don't operate your heating system until you're absolutely certain it is fully operable, or preferably, had a qualified technician inspect it.

Implement controls. Heed the manufacturer's recommendations. Ensure the system is properly maintained, both preventive and corrective maintenance. Clean or replace dirty filters regularly. Do not allow furniture to block air registers.

Supervise. Be sensitive to health changes (unexplained headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue). If you suspect you or someone in your house is experiencing CO exposure or poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, call 911, and go to an emergency room.

Don't overlook the hazards associated with cars, trucks, motor homes, boats, and other recreational vehicles. Three friends on a winter hunting trip died when the heater they were using in a tightly closed camper produced excess CO. Generators in boats and recreational vehicles can cause the same result. Never use a hibachi or barbecue grill inside a home, vehicle, or garage.

Never leave your vehicle running in the garage. Do not assume opening the garage door is sufficient protection. One marine died from sitting in a car, in his garage with the engine running.

Finally, install one or more CO alarms according to the manufacturer's instructions. Units are designed to sense low levels of CO and sound a loud audible alarm. Units with digital readouts are best. Test the alarm every month. One of these could save your life!
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Brownley, Michael
Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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