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Carbon Monoxide May Affect Infant Hearing

Chronic Low Level Carbon Monoxide Exposure Impairs Hearing Development in Rats

300 Die Each Year in U.S. continued...

Edmond says people die needlessly because they either don't know the risks or ignore them. According to figures from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, 300 fatalities occur each year from exposure to the invisible, odorless gas. The gas enters the lungs and interrupts the normal supply of oxygen in the blood, which can increase the risk of damage to the heart, brain, and other vital structures. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and convulsion. In people with underlying medial conditions such as heart disease it can cause chest pain. It can also cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving the home. At very high concentrations it can be lethal.

Things to Do, and Not Do

Because carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is burned, any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential source of the gas. It is important to have good ventilation in your home, maintain all your home appliances, and have reliable detectors installed in your home. To reduce your risk, the CPSC recommends taking these steps:

  • Make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer's instructions and building codes.
  • Have the heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected each year and examine vents and chimneys regularly for improper connections, visible rust, or stains.
  • Follow manufacturer's directions for safe appliance operation, and address problems that could indicate improper operation such as decreasing hot water supply, a poorly working furnace, soot on appliances, or an unfamiliar burning odor.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector.

What shouldn't you do?

  • Never burn charcoal indoors or in a garage.
  • Never service appliances without the proper knowledge, skills, and tools.
  • Never use the gas range or oven for heating.
  • Never leave a car running in the garage, even for a few minutes.
  • Never operate unvented gas-burning appliances in a closed room.

CPSC spokesman Ken Giles tells WebMD that improper use of portable home generators is a growing problem.

"We have been seeing more and more deaths from generators being used indoors, in basements, and in attached garages," he says. "There can even be problems if the generator is placed on a porch next to an open window."

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