South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Carbon monoxide danger grows during heating season


October 23, 2007

As another heating season begins, the Allegheny County Health Department is joining with the Carbon Monoxide Awareness Coalition of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to remind residents about the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that is the by-product of incomplete combustion of a fuel. Hundreds die each year nationwide from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, but most deaths could be prevented through greater awareness and education.

Twenty-eight accidental poisonings were reported countywide during last year's heating season, October 1 through May 31. Twenty poisonings, including seven deaths, were associated with heating systems or vehicles left running in enclosed spaces.

Common sources of carbon monoxide are a malfunctioning or incorrectly vented furnace, hot water heater, space heater, fireplace, cooking stove or other type of fuel-burning equipment.

Misusing a charcoal grill or a cooking stove to warm a house and leaving a car, van or truck running in an attached or integral garage are other possible carbon monoxide sources.

To prevent carbon monoxide problems, furnaces and fireplaces should be cleaned and inspected before each heating season. Carbon monoxide home alarms can help as well, but are not foolproof and no substitute for regular furnace maintenance.

Carbon monoxide poisoning may include any of the following symptoms: headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, loss of hearing, blurry vision, vomiting, disorientation, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

Everyone is at risk, but individuals with health problems such as heart or lung diseases, the elderly, infants, children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable.

Anyone who experiences symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should leave the premises and immediately call 911.

The Carbon Monoxide Awareness Coalition (C-MAC) is offering a free brochure entitled “What You Should Know To Protect Your Family From Carbon Monoxide.” The brochure is available through the Allegheny County Health Department by calling 412-687-ACHD or visiting its web site at

C-MAC is a voluntary community service group that includes emergency, fire and health officials, natural gas utilities; instrument testing companies; and heating contractors.


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