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EPA Warns Seniors on Carbon Monoxide

Jan 23, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP In a frightening new revelation, it turns out that carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can look like the flu.  HealthDay News is reporting that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just developed a new fact sheet, meant to help the public understand the signs and symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  Carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for 15,000 emergency room visits and 500 deaths each year.

The EPA carbon monoxide fact sheet is primarily directed at the elderly because they tend to be more vulnerable to unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings if they also suffer from health issues such as anemia or heart or breathing conditions, said HealthDAy News. The flu, said McKnights is responsible for the deaths of 36,000 seniors each year.

But, the young are not immune from the dangerous, often fatal effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.  The Associated Press (AP) just reported that a University of Denver graduate student died after being removed from an apartment complex near campus.  The cause of death was ruled accidental poisoning from carbon monoxide.  The woman, who died on January 5th, was 23 years old; another women was also hospitalized, said the AP.  One of the two apparently called 911 and complained of wooziness.  It seems, noted the AP, that a Denver fire spokesman confirmed that the poisonous gas leaked from a boiler flue; the boiler was repaired but the old flue vent cap was not reattached properly.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas and the number one cause of poisoning deaths in this country, said HealthDay News, which added that the gase is produced by a number of sources—gasoline engines, stoves, and heating systems—and can become dangerous and deadly when it builds up in improperly vented spaced.

The EPA says people can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by remembering the call letters "I CAN B":

I:    Install carbon monoxide alarms near sleeping areas.  The EPA notes that less than one-third of all homes are equipped with such alarms.
C:   Check heating systems and fuel-burning appliances every year.
A:    Avoid the use of non-vented combustion appliances.
N:    Never burn fuels indoors except in devices such as stoves or furnaces that are made for safe use and in properly ventilated spaces.
B:    Be attentive to the possible symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

McKnights explains that if ill, but symptoms decrease when away from the home or away from the location where the illness is most prounounced; if more than one person in the household or location is ill at the same time; if pets are also exhibiting symptoms; and if some symptoms of the flu—for instance, aches, low-grade fever, or swollen glands—are not present, carbon monoxide poisoning should be seriously considered.

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