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Carbon monoxide detectors available

Julie Severn

11/12/2002 12:00:00 AM

Preventative safety measures in home heating may offer a healthy holiday season this winter.

Carbon monoxide is a flammable, colorless, odorless, tasteless toxic gas produced during incomplete combustion of natural gas, wood or kerosene due to a lack of oxygen.

"Any fuel-burning appliance-a furnace, water heater, fireplace, wood stove or space heater-can create carbon monoxide," explained Tribal Fire Chief Fred Cantu. "That's why it's so important to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home."

The Saginaw Chippewa Fire Department has received grant funding with assistance from the Nimkee Memorial Wellness Center to purchase CO detectors for Tribal community members through Indian Health Services.

"We have a limited supply available for Saginaw Chippewa Tribal members," Cantu said. "Bring your Tribal ID down to the station and we'll provide the detector along with a safety check list and tell you where to place the unit. We also offer the option of installation at no cost."

The combination of deteriorated or cracked flue liners can cause leaks in vent connections, Cantu added. Poorly maintained or blocked chimneys can cause CO levels to creep dangerously high and spill back into the home.

Many newer homes are built airtight, which cuts down the supply of fresh air to the furnace creating an oxygen- starved flame adding to dangerous levels, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Improperly-sized flues can also contribute to spillage," said Cantu. "This often happens when new furnaces and water heaters are installed using existing chimneys, which may be the wrong size to allow the furnace to vent properly."

CO poisoning occurs when it enters the lungs and quickly passes into the bloodstream inhibiting the blood's capacity to carry oxygen. This can cause various amounts of damage to organs and cells as the poison cuts off the oxygen flow.

Low levels of CO poisoning result in symptoms often mistaken for the common flu and cold symptoms including shortness of breath, mild headaches and nausea.

Higher levels can cause dizziness, mental confusion, severe headaches, nausea, fainting and in extreme cases unconsciousness and death.

Warming up vehicles in an attached garage, even with the garage door open, can allow concentrated amounts of CO to enter your home through the car port door or nearby windows.

"If you have a CO detector and it alarms, open windows and ventilate your home with fresh air, have your heating system checked by a professional," he added. "If your alarm sounds and you are feeling drowsy or dizzy, leave the house and call 911 from a neighbors home."

For more information, contact the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Fire Department at (989) 775-4866.