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Carbon monoxide incidents increase during winter

Carbon monoxide (CO) incidents increase by more than 10 percent during the winter months and are often called the silent killer. CO is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas and when inhaled, it enters the blood stream, preventing proper absorption of oxygen, which can lead to illness and even death.

CO is created when fuels such as gasoline or propane don't burn completely, said Tim Boettcher, master service technician for CenterPoint Energy's Home Service Plus.

CenterPoint Energy, together with the Minneapolis Fire Department, reminds the public of important safety tips about how to recognize the symptoms of and avoid CO exposure:

• Physical symptoms of CO exposure include headaches, nausea, fatigue, confusion and dizziness that disappear when a person breathes fresh air.

• Unusually high indoor humidity with heavy condensation on walls and windows and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent.

• Stuffy or stale indoor air.

If you suspect CO exposure, leave the area immediately, taking your pets with you, and tell others to do the same. Once safely away from the area, call 911 to report the incident.

Treatment for CO exposure is fresh air or oxygen. Severe exposure requires medical attention. Do not return to your home or building until the source of the problem is discovered and corrected.

To prevent CO build up:

• Purchase a CO detection device with an audible alarm and digital display.

• Have fuel-burning equipment regularly checked by a qualified technician.

• Never operate an automobile, lawn mower, barbecue grill or similar equipment in an enclosed area such as your home, garage or fish house.

• Never leave a fire smoldering in a fireplace.

• Check for visible signs of problems, such as high indoor humidity and soot or water collecting near a burner or vent.

• Equipment that uses natural gas should produce a clear blue flame. A yellow or orange flame may indicate a problem.

• Provide adequate combustion air for all your appliances.

• Be certain fuel-burning equipment properly vents to the outdoors.

• Keep vents, fresh air intakes and chimneys clear of debris or other obstructions and check for vent pipes that have gaps, leaks and spaces or are rusted through.

• Never attempt to heat a room with a natural gas range, oven or clothes dryer.

For more information about natural gas safety, visit or call (612) 372-4727 or 1-800-245-2377.