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New York City Seal Press Release

New York City Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene

Office of Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin (DOMHM) - (212) 788-5290
Kate McGrath (HHC) (212) 788-3339
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
 

NYC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE AND
NYC HEALTH AND HOSPITALS CORPORATION ISSUE SAFETY TIPS
TO PREVENT UNINTENTIONAL CARBON MONOXIDE POISONINGS

New York State Law Requiring Carbon Monoxide Detectors in One- and Two- Family Homes,
Condos and Co-ops Built After December 1, 2002

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) today offered New Yorkers safety precautions to avoid unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings.

DOHMH Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH said, "With the cold weather here, New Yorkers should be aware of precautions they can take to prevent unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings. As carbon monoxide poisonings are dangerous and potentially fatal, all New Yorkers should have a carbon monoxide detector in their home. Additionally, never idle a car or other gas-powered engine - such as a snow blower - in a closed garage and if you are going to build a fire in the fireplace, remember to clean chimneys thoroughly."

HHC President Benjamin Chu, MD, MPH added, "One of the top priorities of our public health care system is to reach out to educate our community about serious health risks that can be avoided when appropriate precautions are taken. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a tragic health hazard that can be prevented when people are well informed."

To protect against carbon monoxide-related deaths, New York State implemented a new law requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all one- and two-family houses, condominiums and co-ops built on or after December 1, 2002. Carbon monoxide detectors are readily available for purchase and home installation. They are designed to monitor and detect carbon monoxide levels before they become dangerous.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can include headache, loss of alertness, and flu-like symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, fast breathing, confusion, disorientation, and overall weakness. In addition, it can cause chest pain in people with heart disease. CO can also impair judgment. High concentrations of CO can cause coma (unconsciousness) and death. The longer a person breathes CO, the worse the effects can be.

In severe cases, use of Hyperbaric Oxygen (HBO) therapy can prevent disastrous consequences. Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, one of HHC's 11 acute care hospitals, provides HBO therapy. The Jacobi HBO chamber can accommodate up to nine persons simultaneously.

Safety Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisonings

  • Make sure all fuel-burning items - such as furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters, and clothes dryers - in your home are operating properly, ventilated and regularly inspected by a professional.
  • Keep chimneys clean and maintain chimney flues.
  • Keep duct work clean.
  • Never turn on your oven to heat your kitchen, or operate gas or charcoal barbecue grills in an enclosed space.
  • Never idle a vehicle in a closed garage or parked against a snow bank.
  • Do not turn on gas-powered equipment - such as snow blowers, chainsaws, generators or small engines - in enclosed spaces.
  • Maintain your vehicle exhaust system to eliminate leaks
  • If a carbon monoxide detector goes off in your home, call 911 and go outside for fresh air immediately.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. It results from the incomplete burning of material such as gasoline, natural gas, kerosene, liquid petroleum, oil, charcoal, coal, wood, and tobacco. The major source of CO emissions is gasoline-powered automobiles. Carbon monoxide prevents the body from using oxygen efficiently, causing asphyxiation. CO remains inside the body for hours. The effects depend on how much carbon monoxide is in the air, how long it is breathed, and how healthy an individual is. Exposure to CO is worse for older people, unborn children and people with heart, circulatory, or lung disease.

For more information, visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/ei/eicarbon.html.

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