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Healthy Heat

By Brigitte Bas

With the arrival of winter and the holiday season, the temperatures cool down and the increase of fuel-burning appliances in homes goes up. These appliances may include generators, space heaters, ovens, furnaces, and fireplaces. While it’s comforting to get cozy and warm inside, heating systems can also pose a toxic threat to humans and animals. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, CO, can rise in the home at any time of the year, but the greatest potential is during the winter season.


 Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas that can lead to severe negative health outcomes depending on the level of exposure. CO forms when carbon in fuels is not burned completely. It is often referred to as the “silent and deadly winter killer” because the potential victim can’t see, taste, or smell the toxic gas. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Unfortunately, these symptoms are similar to the flu virus that also happens to sprout up during the snowy season. If you suspect your symptoms are due to carbon monoxide poisoning, it is advisable to remove yourself from the area or go to your primary care giver or nearest ER immediately.(1) Long term exposure can result in permanent damages such as confusion, paranoia, weakness, tremors, and worst case scenario, death.


With winter on its way, so is the season associated with greatest risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The good news is that there are several ways you can protect your family and keep a healthy, warm home. The Center for Disease Control advises having a qualified technician check your heating systems, water heaters, and other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances every year.(2) Installing battery operated carbon monoxide detectors in your home is the top preventive measure to reduce your risk of CO poisoning.(3) Never use generators or camp stoves inside the home or directly outside the home near a window.(4) Remember to never run a motor vehicle inside the garage or burn anything in a fireplace that is not vented to the outside.(5) Faulty heating systems, stoves, and cars are leading sources of combustion gases that can quickly strike us where we feel most secure. Taking preventive measures will ensure your family and home are protected against the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.


Sources Cited:

1.    Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - First Aid & Emergencies. (n.d.). Retrieved from WebMD website:



2, 3, 4, 5. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Center for Disease Control website:



brigette_croppedBrigitte Bas is a student at Montclair State University studying Health Education with a concentration in Public Health. She is pursuing a career as a Registered Environmental Health Specialist with a special interest in Water Protection. She is a member of the American Public Health Association and the National Environmental Health Association. She plans to get her Master of Science Degree in Environmental and Occupational Health in the future.





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