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Georgia Sees First Seasonal Case of Mass Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Year after year, we see stories about people turning on generators indoors to provide heat and power as the weather gets cooler. Some turn to their gas ovens when the power goes out, while others rely on propane heaters, grills, and other heat sources to keep warm.

Unfortunately, each of these heat sources emits potentially deadly carbon monoxide (CO) as a byproduct. The dangerous gas can and does poison and kill people every year when the weather gets cooler, and this year is no exception.

On October 12, Gwinnett Country Firefighters were called out to a Norcross apartment complex over reports of a sick person. CBS46 reports:

Upon arrival, first responders determined that 27 people had similar symptoms to the sick person they initially received calls about. Eight of the patients, most of them children, were transported to nearby hospitals with non-life-threatening symptoms. Residents of one of the apartment units reported that power had gone out overnight and a gas-powered generator was used to temporarily power the home.

This situation is far more common than you might think. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “Since 2007, portable generators have been associated with an estimated 727 non-fire, CO poisoning deaths, accounting for 40 percent of all CO deaths related to consumer product under CPSC’s jurisdiction.” More than 700 incidents are associated with using consumer products in an enclosed space without proper ventilation.

It may seem obvious to avoid bringing generators or other heating devices inside, but not all carbon monoxide deaths are the result of poor judgment or improper use of products. In many cases, home heating systems that are being used as intended can build up unsafe levels of CO indoors. The reason is simple; furnaces (whether gas, oil, or wood-burning) are left unused for most of the year. If severe weather or, more likely, the age of the system compromised an exhaust vent, this harmful gas can wind up where it does not belong.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct produced by burning fossil fuels. Because of the vagaries of chemistry, the simple difference between carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the difference between life and death. In extremely rare situations, carbon dioxide can be dangerous in high concentrations. However, CO has a much more sinister (and deadly) effect on the human body. Exposure to too much CO can result in brain damage and even death.

How can I protect my family from CO poisoning?

Knowing the symptoms of CO poisoning can reduce the risk of long-term or fatal side effects. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and completely undetectable by humans. The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning become more severe the longer you are exposed. Even if the exposure was minimal and for small amount of time, Medical News Today explains that victims may experience:

  • Loss of balance
  • Vision problems
  • Memory problems
  • Eventual loss of consciousness

If everyone is feeling a little bit ill and there is no explanation, the best course of action is to evacuate the area and get fresh air. Pets are also sensitive to carbon monoxide exposure and may exhibit symptoms before larger adults. The safest way to deal with a possible CO leak is to remove all persons from the building and turn off all appliances. If possible, the main gas line should also be cut off outside, and the building aired out and test for CO before anyone returns indoors.

Sadly, CO poisoning is easily preventable. Battery operated carbon monoxide monitors are relatively inexpensive. The Mayo Clinic recommends that CO detectors be installed “in the hallway near each sleeping area in your house,” and that you should check the batteries twice a year.

As we approach cooler weather, the best thing you can do to prevent CO poisoning at home is to have a professional inspect your home heating system. They will likely recommend changing air filters, checking your thermostat, and may make other suggestions depending on the age and type of your heating system.

If a defective product has put your family in harm’s way, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP can help get you the compensation you deserve. Our teams in Atlanta and Savannah help support your family through difficult times while holding all responsible parties accountable to the fullest extent of the law. For a confidential consultation with compassionate, strong counsel, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847 or our Savannah office at 912-417-3774. You can also complete our contact form.


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