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