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The Silent killer

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the poisonous fumes, CO (carbon monoxide) can kill you before you are aware of it. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of CO exposure go outside or to a well-ventilated area with plenty of fresh air. If symptoms worsen, if anyone in the home begins to turn a dark cherry-red color or if someone in the home passes out, get everyone out quickly and call 911.

How does carbon monoxide build up in a home, outbuilding or business? Sources include unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke.

Steps to Reduce Exposure to Carbon Monoxide:

• Properly adjust gas appliances;

• Choose a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one; • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters; • Open flues when fireplaces are in use • Choose properly sized wood stoves that are EPA certified; • Have furnaces, flues, and chimneys professionally inspected annually; repair leaks promptly; • Do not idle the car inside a garage.

Questions? Dallas County residents may call Ted Trewin or Toby Welch at Dallas County Environmental Health (515) 993-5803. Further information is available from the Iowa Department of Public Health at http://www.idph.state.ia.us/eh/carbon_monoxide.asp.

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