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Carbon Monoxide Threat
The onset of cold weather brings with it the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

December 16, 2004


Charlotte, NC - Cold weather in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area over the next few days may increase the likelihood of some residents taking extraordinary measures to keep warm. The Mecklenburg County Health Department and Medic remind residents that fuel-burning space heaters, faulty furnaces and other hazards may increase the risk of exposure to deadly carbon monoxide gas.

Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, gas ranges/stoves, gas clothes dryers and water heaters are all sources of carbon monoxide (CO). Fireplaces, charcoal grills, wood-burning stoves, kerosene heaters and vehicles, generators and other combustion engines running in an attached garage -- even when an outside door is open -- also produce CO.

Media outlets are reminded to alert their audiences of these risks and the appropriate preventive measures.

• Provide proper ventilation when operating kerosene or other fuel-burning space heaters.

• Never use charcoal and/or gas grills and generators indoors or in unventilated areas.

• Mecklenburg County’s recently revised CO ordinance now requires all dwellings in the county to have an operating CO alarm.

• If your CO alarm activates or you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 and evacuate the home.

CO is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States, with more than 3,800 people known to die annually from CO poisoning. Young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with heart or respiratory problems are especially vulnerable to CO poisoning.

On January 1, 2004, an ordinance went into effect requiring ALL dwelling units must contain at least one operable carbon monoxide alarm. These alarms must be battery-powered or have a battery back up. Owners were allowed one year to become compliant before enforcement action, so all dwellings must be compliant by January 1, 2005. CO is a poison that is produced when fuels such as gasoline, charcoal, kerosene, etc., are burned. It can rapidly accumulate even in areas that might appear well ventilated. Because CO is colorless, tasteless, odorless and non-irritating, it can overcome an exposed person without warning. It frequently produces weakness and confusion, depriving the person of the ability to seek safety.

A CO alarm can be purchased at local home improvement and discount stores for $20 to $50. For more information about CO or the revised ordinance, visit the Health Department's CO poisoning prevention Web site at

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