ShareThis Page

Health Department warns of carbon monoxide 'silent killer' as heating season begins

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, 11:48 a.m.
Common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in homes. Other possible sources include appliances in cabins or campers, barbecue grills, lack of adequate ventilation, pool and spa heaters, ceiling-mounted heating units and gasoline powered tools.
Allegheny County Health Department
Common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in homes. Other possible sources include appliances in cabins or campers, barbecue grills, lack of adequate ventilation, pool and spa heaters, ceiling-mounted heating units and gasoline powered tools.

Nighttime temperatures are falling down toward freezing for the first time since last winter, and Alle-Kiski Valley residents are turning their furnaces back on.

That brings with it the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide, or “CO,” is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that is the by-product of incomplete combustion of fuel.

Hundreds die each year nationwide from accidental CO poisoning.

It got down to 36 degrees Wednesday night, recorded around 6:45 a.m. at Pittsburgh International Airport, National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks said.

Lows the next few nights are forecast to be in the mid-to-upper 30s; it could dip to freezing, depending on cloud cover, Hendricks said.

Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, said it's critical that residents have furnaces and fireplaces cleaned and inspected before each heating season.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is known as the ‘silent killer,'” Hacker said. “Exposure to carbon monoxide can gradually cause a person to become unconscious, and eventually die.”

The health department encourages use of carbon monoxide detectors in homes, but cautions that while they can be lifesavers, they are no substitute for regular furnace maintenance.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, loss of hearing, blurry vision, vomiting, disorientation, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

Those with health problems such as heart or lung diseases, the elderly, infants, children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable.

Anyone who believes they are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms should leave the premises and immediately call 911.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.