One of the ways in which the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the SC Utility Consumer brand seek to inform and empower the citizens of our state is through training, outreach, and tips for conservation and safe consumption. Today, we’re spotlighting the dangers of carbon monoxide–an odorless, tasteless, and potentially fatal gas given off when fuel is burned.
Per the Center for Disease Control, 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning (not linked to fires) each year, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO exposure. Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, regardless of age or health, but children, older adults, and people with a history of cardiac or pulmonary diseases are at higher risk. So how do you stay safe?
- Recognition: While mild carbon monoxide poisoning can result in symptoms like a dull headache, nausea, or weakness, more severe cases result in more impactful symptoms, including loss of consciousness, confusion, shortness of breath, and vomiting. Carbon monoxide attacks the circulatory system by blocking hemoglobin’s ability to transfer oxygen, so symptoms are wide-ranging and systemic. If you suspect you’re affected by carbon monoxide in your home, leave the site immediately, seek fresh air, and call 911.
- Prevention: Because of the wide range of symptoms that characterize carbon monoxide poisoning, prevention is paramount in preventing lasting injury or death. Each year, utility consumers should have their gas- or oil-fired heating system, water heater, and any other fuel-consuming appliance serviced by a qualified technician. Before using your fireplace each year, have a trained professional inspect your chimney for blockage or debris that can cause carbon monoxide to build in your home.
Twice yearly, check the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector and replace them if necessary. Consider purchasing a detector with a digital readout that monitors the level of carbon monoxide in your home and keep record of that level should it fluctuate.
Never use any fuel-burning device—including portable generators, charcoal or gas grills, firepits, or camp stoves—indoors. A loss of power can be frustrating and inconvenient, but usage of fuel-consuming devices indoors can lead to loss of life.
Always open your garage doors if your vehicle engine is on.
By keeping these tips in mind throughout the year—and especially as temperatures drop in the winter months—you can prevent dangerous carbon monoxide from building up in your home and ensure a safe environment for you and your family. We at the Public Service Commission are dedicated to providing a sustainable and equitable utility economy for the public of South Carolina, and that entails ensuring a healthy and responsible consumer base for years to come. If you’d like to learn more—or are interested in booking a PSC representative for your gathering or meeting—please contact the SC Utility Consumer program director at 803.896.5142 or at email@example.com.