Skip to main content

MidAmerican Energy News

Winter Brings Increased Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

DES MOINES, Iowa – (Jan. 19, 2017) – Known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, can poison people and pets when carbon-based fuels are burned incorrectly or aren’t vented properly.

“Winter is the peak time for carbon monoxide poisoning, since more people are cranking up their gas furnace, using fireplaces or woodstoves, and spending more time indoors,” said Gerald Peek, director, environmental health safety and training, for MidAmerican Energy Company. “Because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, you may be overcome by carbon monoxide before you even realize you’ve been exposed to it.”

To help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, which kills more than 400 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, MidAmerican Energy is offering the following safety tips:

Install at least one CO detector on each level of your home. Better yet, place one near each bedroom, one in the basement if gas appliances are located there and one near the laundry room if you have a gas dryer. If you have a plug-in CO detector, be sure it has a battery backup so that it keeps working in the event of a power outage. Change the batteries regularly and replace detectors every five years or as recommended by the manufacturer. It’s also recommended to purchase a CO detector that is certified by a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.

Have your heating system and other fuel-burning appliances inspected annually. A qualified contractor can check for proper ventilation and ensure your systems are operating safely.

Periodically check vents, flues and chimneys to make sure they aren’t blocked. Chimneys can be blocked by debris, which can cause CO to back up into your home.

Never use portable generators inside homes or garages. Generators give off carbon monoxide that can quickly reach dangerous levels, even if doors and windows are left open. If you must use a portable generator as a power source, locate it far away from the house.

Beware of home heating shortcuts. If the power goes out or your furnace malfunctions, don’t bring outdoor equipment like charcoal grills, propane heaters or camp stoves indoors and don’t use your gas range or oven as a space heater. These devices can cause CO to build up in your home.

Never leave your car running inside an attached garage, even if the overhead door is open. Fumes can still build up inside the garage and seep into the house.

Also, it’s important to know the signs of CO poisoning, which include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. These symptoms may be confused with the flu. The key difference is the flu is often accompanied by a fever, whereas CO poisoning is not. As the concentration of CO in the bloodstream increases, you may experience vomiting, drowsiness, mental confusion and loss of muscular coordination. Exposure to high levels of CO may lead to loss of consciousness, convulsions, cardiac or respiratory failure, and ultimately, death.

If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside into fresh air immediately and call 911. For more home safety tips, visit MidAmerican Energy’s website: www.midamericanenergy.com.

About MidAmerican Energy Company
MidAmerican Energy Company is an energy provider serving 752,000 electric customers and 733,000 natural gas customers in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. It is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. Information about MidAmerican Energy is available on the company’s website, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages, which can be accessed via MidAmerican Energy Company's website.