Most people associate Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley with smoggy air, little rain, and uncomfortably high temperatures, oftentimes exceeding 100 °F for weeks at a time. However, as those of us who live in the Valley know, wintertime temperatures can be very cold, many times approaching or even going below the freezing mark, especially at night.
Those cold temperatures cause us to not only dress warmly, but also to use other sources of heat, either to remain comfortable inside our houses, while working in our garages, or sometimes when doing outdoor activities, like camping. These sources include natural gas fired water heaters, wood or gas burning fireplaces, gas cooking appliances, and at times, portable electricity generators powered by gasoline. One of the dangers of using all of these different pieces of equipment stems from a very dangerous combustion product that forms when gas, wood, or gasoline is burned. That product is carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is invisible, odorless, and harmful to human health. At elevated concentrations, it can cause headaches, fatigue, and queasiness. However, at very high levels, CO can damage the brain, the heart, and sometimes, even result in death. Statistics bear out the dangers of CO, with the accidental deaths of about 30 Californians every year from CO poisoning and 600 hospital visits for exposure treatment.
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has a lot of free and useful material available about CO and how to ensure one’s safety when using appliances, equipment, and other devices that may generate CO. Some actions we all can take are as follows:
- Install CO detectors and check batteries annually. (Note: As of July 1, 2011, California law requires owners of all single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source to install CO detectors within the home.)
- Properly install, vent, operate and maintain appliances.
- Never idle in enclosed or attached garages- even with the garage door open.
- Never use a gas oven to heat your home.
- Never use kerosene heaters, charcoal or hibachi grills indoors
- Place emergency generators outdoors away from windows and doors preventing fumes from entering the home.
- Be especially careful with appliances in recreational vehicles, cabins and houseboats, and use carbon monoxide detectors specifically made for these locations.
- Don’t ignore the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, nausea, dizziness, faintness, confusion, and shortness of breath. They’re flu-like so you may not think you’re experiencing CO poisoning.
For more information, please watch the accompanying video or read the CO information at ARB’s website. Following these simple steps will ensure that you, your family, friends, and loved ones will be safe.
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