August 13, 2009

Carbon monoxide a risk after hurricanes

Carbon monoxide exposure due to improperly vented generators after power outages is a preventable cause of death and injury, U.S. health officials said.

The Centers for Disease and Control Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report said carbon monoxide exposure is preventable, yet it continues to pose a substantial problem in the wake of natural disasters such as hurricanes.

On Sept. 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike struck Texas, leaving some 2.3 million households without electricity. Between Sept. 13-26, Texas poison centers received calls about 54 exposures, 15 patients received hyperbaric oxygen treatment for severe carbon monoxide poisoning and seven people died due to carbon monoxide poisoning, the report said.

Improper generator use was the primary cause for the reported carbon monoxide exposures. Generators should never be operated in a basement or garage and should be placed as far away from the home as possible, health officials said.

Installation of a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector outside each sleeping area in the home, and routine battery changes, can save lives, the report said.