For Release: 11/08/2011
Rosemount, MN - Minnesota Energy Resources Corporation (MERC) advises all outdoor hunting and fishing enthusiasts returning to their cabins, campers, tents and ice shanties, to be extra careful when restarting their heating system. A careful inspection should be done before each heating season to make sure heating equipment is working efficiently and venting properly. It's also important to install quality smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and make sure they are working properly.
When there is incomplete burning or combustion of the fuel source in the heating unit in combination with insufficient venting, a buildup of potentially lethal amounts of CO can occur. CO is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas and can be produced by any heat source that burns fuels such as wood, propane, kerosene or gasoline. CO is the most common cause of fatal poisoning in Minnesota. In most CO deaths, the victims died in their sleep.
Initial signs of CO poisoning include flu-like symptoms of headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and confusion. Fresh air is immediately required so if CO is suspected, people should go outdoors and open windows and doors to get fresh air inside and contact 911 emergency responders.
Venting on all heat sources like fireplaces, woodstoves, gas stoves and furnaces are designed to carry CO and other combustion products to the outdoors. Chimneys and vents can get plugged by animal or bird nests, leaves or snow and ice. Small propane heaters and stoves, kerosene, wood burning and charcoal grills also produce CO buildup when not vented. A gas or charcoal grill must never be used inside for heating purposes. A gas oven should also not be used for heating.
Portable heaters are available in many shapes and sizes and are available in many retail stores. Manufacturer's recommendations for safe operations must be followed and are included with each unit sold.