When heat goes on, be aware of carbon monoxide hazards

(Nov. 8, 2011) — As winter quickly approaches, a warm, comfortable home is a welcome respite from cold temperatures and frigid winds. But where there's heat, there's also the potential for carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and is referred to as a "silent killer" because it's nearly impossible to detect without a proper monitor. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 200 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year; thousands of others are treated at hospital emergency rooms.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas created when fossil fuels (such as gasoline, liquid petroleum or LP gas, wood, coal, charcoal, propane, natural gas, oil and methane) burn incompletely.

Sources of carbon monoxide in your home include oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, wood and gas fireplaces, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters and wood stoves.

It's important to be aware of the potential hazards in using these household appliances and the safety measures you can take to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. The following information was compiled from three experts in the field: the CPSC, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

What to do if you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning:

Get fresh air immediately and see a doctor. In addition, have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly and/or to find the source of carbon monoxide.

Based in Madison, Wis., American Family Insurance offers auto insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, health insurance, business and farm/ranch insurance in 19 states. American Family Mutual Insurance Company is the nation's third-largest mutual property/casualty insurance company. Web: www.amfam.com; Facebook: www.facebook.com/amfam; Twitter: www.twitter.com/amfam.