As bone-chilling arctic weather blasts the southern and central parts of the United States, power grids are strained and millions of people unaccustomed to the sight of snow are trying to figure out how to stay warm.
Some have turned to risky sources of heat, including gas-powered generators, ovens and even automobiles. At least two people died and about 100 were sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning over 16 hours spanning Monday and Tuesday in the Houston area, the authorities said.
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, dizziness and nausea, according to the Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky, Ohio. People who are “sleeping or drunk” can die from the condition before they experience symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carbon monoxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, is colorless and odorless, making it harder to detect than other dangerous substances. But carbon monoxide poisoning is “entirely preventable,” the C.D.C. says.
The agency has urged people to have working carbon monoxide detectors, and warned against heating homes with a gas oven or burning anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
Indoor use of charcoal, gasoline-powered engines, or even portable gas camp stoves is also dangerous, health and safety officials say. They also warn against running generators or cars inside to heat homes.
In Houston, the police said this week that a woman and a girl had been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning after a car was left running in an attached garage “to create heat as the power is out.” A man and a boy were also hospitalized.
In Oregon, four people were killed from carbon monoxide poisoning over the weekend, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said on Tuesday.
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