Monday, February 8, 2010
Power outages and subzero temperatures have prompted many in Southwestern PA to turn to alternative heating sources but Environmental Protection agency Environmental Engineer Cristina Schulingkamp says that can be deadly if done wrong. A father and daughter from McKeesport died early Sunday of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. An autopsy is pending. More than 30 people attending a church service in Sugar Grove PA were made ill by high levels of CO and many more suspected cases are turning up in area emergency rooms. Schulingkamp says any device that burns fuel that is not properly vented steals oxygen from the room and pumps carbon monoxide into the house. She stresses that you should never use a stove or oven to heat a house. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can kill. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea and sleepiness. Eventually the victim will lose consciousness. Schulingkamp says the best treatment is to get out into some fresh air. She says if the symptoms go away then you need to stay out of the house. She says venting a room will help keep the CO levels down but she admits that defeats the purpose of using the heater in the first place. Schulingkamp recommends that everyone have a carbon monoxide detector and if it goes off you should get out of the house and call your local fire department.