Update: Between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3 The county health department had 25 residents present at area hospitals for CO exposure. Out of the 25, seven were admitted.
One on Oct. 31 was due to a generator-related exposure, four residents on Nov. 3 were exposed by their use of a grill indoors and the other two, also on Nov. 3, were from a generator-related exposure.
There are no fatalities reported at this time.
“Seven County residents have been hospitalized due to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘silent killer’ since you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it. It can prevent the body from getting oxygen. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms such as nausea, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, sleepiness, and weakness. In large amounts, carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness (blacking out), brain damage or death,” said Dr. Joan Facelle, Rockland County Commissioner of Health.
During a power outage, generators and other gas-operated equipment are useful for providing electricity but can be dangerous if not used properly. They can produce high levels of carbon monoxide very quickly. Carbon monoxide is a very poisonous gas that you cannot see, smell or taste.
The Rockland County Department of Health recommends the following precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and prevent fires:
- Do not burn charcoal, barbecue, or gas grills inside your house, garage, vehicle, tent, or fireplace.
- Never use a gas range or oven for warmth.
- Always put generators OUTDOORS on a dry surface, away from doors, windows, vents, and air conditioning equipment that could allow CO to come indoors.
- NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation.
- Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in your home.
- Follow the instructions that come with your generator.
- Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up on every level of your home and within 10 feet of the entrance to all bedrooms and sleeping areas according to the manufacturer's installation instructions.
- Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
- Carbon monoxide detectors should be certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Carefully follow the instructions for installation, use, maintenance, and replacement.
- Use battery operated or plug-in electric carbon monoxide detectors. If you choose to install an electric carbon monoxide detector, it must have a battery backup and it can’t be connected to an outlet controlled by a wall switch.
- Check your detector batteries twice a year.
- Carbon monoxide detectors don’t last forever! Check the date on your alarm; they are usually good for 5 to 7 years.
- Combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are fine.
- If the alarm sounds, get out of the building.
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:
- If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator DO NOT DELAY, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. Remember that you cannot see or smell CO.
- If you have a poisoning emergency, call your nearest New York Poison Information Center 1-800-222-1222. Post the phone number in a visible location.
- Open all windows and doors and get out of the building and into the fresh air.
- Call the fire department and the gas company from outside the building.
- If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 immediately.
For more information about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning prevention, visit the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/emergency/weather/carbon_monoxide/ or call Information Rockland at (845) 364-2020 (8 am – 8 pm).