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As NYC residents brace for winter storm, risks of CO poisoning increase

According to New York State's Department of Health, every year some 200 people are hospitalized throughout the state due to carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is an odorless and colorless gas that is produced when certain fuels are burned. Most CO poisoning cases occur in homes and apartments and are the result of poorly maintained furnaces or water heaters, using gas kitchen ranges as heating sources and portable generators and non-electric space heaters.

With New York City currently under a blizzard warning and expected to be covered in eight to 12 inches of snow by the time the winter storm is over, it's likely that some residents will be impacted by power and heating outages. For building residents, the use of non-electric space heaters and generators pose safety risks including possible exposure to high levels of CO gas.

Under New York City's building code, buildings must be equipped with functioning smoke and CO detectors which should be regularly tested and maintained to ensure that they are functional. In the event a CO detector alarms, it's important to turn off all non-electrical appliances, leave the premise and seek medical care.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include nausea, dizziness, muscle weakness, fatigue, difficulty breathing, confusion and slowed reaction time. In many cases, an individual may attribute such symptoms to other sources and fail to realize that they are in danger and need to exit the dwelling and call 911.

As residents throughout New York City brace for this and likely additional winter storms, it's important to understand the sources and symptoms of CO poisoning and the steps to take in the event that CO exposure and poisoning occurs.

Source: NBC News, "Winter Storm Live Updates: Millions Brace for Major Snowstorm," Jan. 22, 2016

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