PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
December 19, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Commissioner O’Dowd Reminds Residents to Take Measures to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In response to 11 cases of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning which sent four New Jersey families to hospital emergency departments in November and December, New Jersey Commissioner of Health Mary O'Dowd is reminding residents to reduce their risk of carbon monoxide exposure.

"As the cold weather of winter approaches, it is important for families to take precautionary measures to prevent CO poisoning," said Commissioner O'Dowd. "There are three steps every family should take: 1) have your oil or gas furnace inspected every year; 2) use battery-operated CO detectors near every sleeping area in your home, and check them regularly to make sure they are working; and 3) never use a generator inside your home or garage."

Most CO exposures in homes that occur during the winter months are caused by problems with heating systems. In fact, this past November, three of the New Jersey families who were treated for CO poisoning (including a baby less than one year of age), were exposed to CO because of issues with their home heating units, and were preventable.

Carbon Monoxide often is called the "silent killer" because you can't see, smell, taste, or hear it. Exposure to low levels of CO can cause headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability. At higher levels, it can cause nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination and death.

During 2013, there were approximately 630 New Jersey residents treated for unintentional CO exposure in emergency departments throughout the state. Of those incidents, 44 residents were hospitalized. During 2012, 19 New Jersey residents died from CO exposure.

If you think you or someone in your family has CO poisoning: 

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately if a person is not breathing, is unconscious or unresponsive, or is having seizures or convulsions
  • Leave the home/building/enclosed space immediately
  • From a safe area, call your local fire department
  • Call NJ Poison Information at 1-800-222-1222 for immediate treatment advice

The New Jersey Department of Health has additional information on how to prevent CO poisoning on their Environmental Public Health Tracking website, https://nj.gov/health/epht/cmp.shtml; Links are provided to CO fact sheets, educational materials in seven languages, and CO statistics.

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Last Reviewed: 12/22/2014