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Carbon Monoxide and Space Heaters / Generators

Carbon Monoxide poisoning (CO)

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious condition that is caused by exposure to carbon monoxide. This highly toxic gas is capable of causing numerous and severe health ailments even with short-term exposure to it.What truly makes it dangerous is the fact that carbon monoxide is odorless and does not give itself away as being present in the air. This means that you could be immersed in a highly toxic environment for hours or even days before you know that something is wrong. Gas ovens are primary culprits in household carbon monoxide sicknesses and deaths, due to the process off combustion that they use.

The gas flame that ignites heat inside of the oven is responsible for this. Whenever the oven fails to properly burn up the fuel used during ignition, this is when carbon monoxide can get into the air. The effects of this gas essentially suffocate the individual exposed to them, and can cause death in addition to a host of illnesses.

So how can you prevent this odorless substance from wreaking havoc in your household? This is a question that millions of Americans are asking themselves. Over half of all gas-powered ovens emit more than the 9 parts per million amount of carbon monoxide that is considered harmless, and many families do not know this until the worst has happened. But with a bit of due diligence, you can prevent long-term harm by increasing your awareness at home and practicing certain safety techniques.

Buy a CO detector

First and foremost, we highly recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector. A battery-powered detector is ideal, as it can be placed anywhere in your home. Make sure to keep it where it can be easily reached, as well as easily heard in the event that it alarms when everyone is asleep. A digital display to show CO levels in the air is also useful, especially when you have to call in the professionals to rectify the problem.

If you already have one, it is never a bad idea to purchase a back-up - just in case.

Don't heat your house with the oven

A common but dangerous practice that we've all probably done at least once ourselves during bitter winter months: leaving the oven door open so that its heat can circulate through the house. This might be an effective method of staying warm, but it can cause the buildup of toxic carbon monoxide.

How long does it take take to die from carbon monoxide?

Breathing in only 200 hundred parts per million of cvarbon monoxide will cause the first signs of poisoning. This will happen after a two to three hour period of breathing in this small amount of gas. Twelve thousand parts per million of carbon monoxide will cause death in one to three minutes.

Carbon monoxide - Generator Safety fact sheet

When the pwoer goes out, keep your generator outside.

Portable generators
  • Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if the doors and windows are open.
  • Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.
Dangers of space heaters to keep warm

What is a space heater? Space heaters run on propane, natural gas, kerosene or (most commonly) electricity. Some use convection heating (circulating the air in the room), while others use radiant heating (which only heat the objects and people directly in front of them). Comforting and cozy as a space heater can be, however, it can also be quite dangerous if it isn't utilized properly. More than 25,000 fires occur in the U.S each year because of space heaters, causing over 300 deaths. Be sure to follow the space heater safety tips if you want to keep your home warm and safe this winter.

Space Heater Safety Tips
  • Keep your space heater at least 3 feet away from flammable materials (that includes furniture, bedding, drapes, and humans, amongst other things).
  • Avoid using an extension cord with your space heater.
  • Inspect the cord for frayed wire or damaged insulation before use. If the space heater is damaged in any way, do not use it. You will need to purchase a new product.
  • Place the space heater on a flat, level, and stable surface.
  • Be sure that the plug fits securely into your outlet and that it doesn't become hot when in use. If it does, contact an electrician. You may have a home wiring issue.
  • Do not use the space heater in a damp area (like a bathroomor outdoors) unless it is specifically manufactured for that use.
  • If you have a heater that is liquid-fueled, only use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer. When refueling , turn off the heater and allow it to cool down completely before you add more fuel. Wipe away any spills before you turn the heater back on.
  • Only purchase new space heater models that have current safety features. The Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) label should be on the box. If possible, it should have a tip-over safety switch that turns off the heater if the unit is tipped over.
  • Keep children and pets away from the space heater. The heater may become very hot when in use.
  • Do not place the space heater in an area of high foot traffic or in a place where someone might trip over the cord.
  • Do not leave a space heater on while you are asleep.
  • A space heater should supplement your heating, not your primary source of it.

Contact Us

Wayne County Department of Health, Human & Veterans Services
Public Health Division

Environmental Health Section

Health Administration Building
33030 Van Born Road
Wayne, MI 48184
Phone (734) 727-7400
Fax: (734)-727-7165

Mon-Fri: 8:00AM - 4:00PM for counter service
Closed For Lunch: 11:30AM - 12:30PM