Chicago Wintertime Safety: Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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Every year Chicago faces a huge number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations during the cold wave. You will be surprised to know that the root behind many of these reports is merely a gas called carbon monoxide (CO). 

Carbon monoxide poisoning is so deadly because it kills with practically no forewarning. With a change in the freezing weather every day, people living in Chicago become more vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.  

Although carbon monoxide poisoning is most common during the winter months, it is easily preventable. In this blog, we answer frequently asked questions and provide useful tips on how to stay safe in Chicago’s harsh wintertime. We will cover the following:

Why is CO Poisoning Most Common During the Wintertime? 

Winter in Chicago is already a difficult time of the year, and running the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by attempting to stay warm with space heaters or other gas powered appliances can make it seem even more harsh. But why are winter months the most vulnerable period for carbon monoxide poisoning? Let’s find out.

Use of Fuel Burning Appliances

The use of appliances like heaters, furnaces, and stoves increases dramatically during winter. In order to warm up the environment indoors during winter, people use these appliances on a frequent basis.

After months of disuse, it is all too common for these heating appliances to be used unvented and this causes carbon monoxide poisoning to occur. Space heaters, gas appliances and other heating systems are some of the most common sources of carbon monoxide buildup in a home. With frequent usage, carbon monoxide gradually builds up and results in poisoning. 

Clogged Snowy Flues and Vents

Yes, snow and ice that clog your fireplace flue or other vents can also cause CO poisoning. During winter, there is a high chance of snow blocking an external flue or vent. If these become blocked by snow or ice, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can accumulate in a car, garage, or residence and cause poisoning. 

Warming Up a Car in the Garage

It may be tempting to leave your car running in the garage with the door closed to warm it up, but this is a dangerous practice that can cause CO to accumulate in the enclosed space. If you leave your car running, be sure it is in a well ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

What is Carbon Monoxide? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide, often abbreviated by the chemical formula as CO, has no odor, no color, no taste and has highly toxic characteristics. CO is created any time a fossil fuel is burned and common sources include gas burning furnaces, heaters, stoves, chimneys, fireplaces, car tailpipes, etc.

CO is considered a highly toxic gas because it binds to red blood cells very quickly and causes destruction of these cells in a short time.  Carbon monoxide poisoning can become deadly very quickly.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Now that you know a good deal about the causes of CO poisoning, it’s time to get familiar with some of the common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Although carbon monoxide kills without warning, you can still identify whether someone has been affected by observing their symptoms. 

The extent of symptoms of CO poisoning depends on the levels of carbon monoxide inhaled by the person. The more CO inhaled, the more the person will get sick. 

Symptoms of Mild CO Poisoning

With a minimum exposure, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are less often fatal and resemble the flu or COVID-19. This makes it harder to diagnose whether the cause is carbon monoxide poisoning or not. Some of the sign of mild CO poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches

Symptoms of Moderate CO Poisoning

With a moderate amount of carbon monoxide exposure, the symptoms become more severe and can include: 

  • Pounding headaches
  • Confusion
  • Mental disorientation
  • Dizziness 

Symptoms of Severe CO Poisoning

If a person has suffered a severe degree of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, the symptoms can include:

  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Fits
  • Respiratory distress or shortness of breath
  • Cardiac failure
  • Death

5 Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

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Although the signs of CO exposure during a Chicago winter are alarming, CO poisoning can easily be prevented if correct measures are followed.  

Here are 5 tips you can follow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

  1. Install a carbon monoxide detector and make sure your CO detector is working and change the batteries every six  months.
  2. Schedule yearly maintenance for your fuel burning appliances (which may include your furnace, heaters, gas fireplaces, or stove). 
  3. Never leave a car running in an enclosed space.
  4. Never use a fossil fuel burning heater, generator, or vehicle less than twenty feet from a vent, open window or door where gas fumes can safely vent outside of the enclosed space into fresh air.
  5. If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 right away and seek medical treatment immediately.

Who is Responsible for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in an Apartment?

Determining who is responsible for carbon monoxide exposure or poisoning in a Chicago apartment building is an important first step in a personal injury case.

It is possible that multiple parties may be responsible if the carbon monoxide exposure in the apartment was due to faulty heaters, an incorrectly installed furnace, defective or badly maintained equipment that causes permanent injury or wrongful death.

Possible Responsible Parties for CO Poisoning

Responsible parties may include:

  • Heating or furnace installation company
  • Carbon monoxide detector manufacturer
  • Furnace or heater manufacturer
  • Maintenance company
  • Property owner or landlord

If you or a loved one has been exposed to carbon monoxide, contact the experienced Chicago personal injury lawyers at The Kryder Law Group. Call us to discuss your case, it’s free!

Carbon monoxide poisoning is most common during the winter months, and it is easily preventable.

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