Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Warning for Seniors from EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new information for seniors to warn about the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, which those over 65 years old could be more susceptible to due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a toxic, odorless and colorless gas that is produced when fuels such as propane, natural gas, oil, gasoline, kerosene, wood, or charcoal are burned.

When a household device malfunctions or if the gas is produced within an insufficiently-ventilated area, it can build-up and inhaling it can lead to serious and potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.

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The Environmental protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new Fact Sheet about prevention of CO poisoning, which is the most common cause of poisoning related deaths in the United States. The information is part of the Agency’s Aging Initiative, designed to help protect the environmental health of older persons.

The EPA recommends installation of carbon monoxide alarms and also warns that symptoms of CO poisoning could be confused with the flu. Because early symptoms like severe headaches, dizziness, tiredness, nausea, confusion, irritability or impaired memory and coordination are often ignored, many people are exposed for long periods of time and could lose consciousness.

In the United States, carbon monoxide poisoning results in approximately 15,000 visits to the emergency room each year and there are about 500 carbon monoxide deaths annually.

To prevent CO poisoning the EPA is promoting an acronym for people to remember “ICANB”:

  • Install CO alarms near sleeping areas
  • Check heating systems and fuel burning appliances annually
  • Avoid the use of non-vented combustion appliances
  • Never burn fuels indoors except in devices such as stoves or furnaces that are made for safe use
  • Be attentive to possible symptoms of CO poisoning

To distinguish CO poisoning from the flu, the EPA recommends people consider whether being away from a space makes them feel better, whether a number of people in the same home are affected at the same time, whether symptoms seem to occur or worsen when a fuel-burning device or vehicle is switched on and whether household pets become ill, as human flu viruses are not transmitted to pets.


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