As the bone-freezing arctic climate sweeps across the southern and central 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 heat sources, including gasoline generators, stoves and even automobiles. At least two people have died and around 100 have been sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning for more than 16 hours from Monday to Tuesday in the Houston area, authorities said.
The early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, dizziness, and nausea, according to Firelands Regional Medical Center in Sandusky, Ohio. People who “sleep or are drunk” may die from the disease before experiencing symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carbon monoxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, is colorless and odorless, making it more difficult to detect than other hazardous substances. But carbon monoxide poisoning is “completely preventable,” according to the CDC.
The agency 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 ventilated. .
Using charcoal, gasoline engines, or even portable gas stoves indoors is also dangerous, health and safety officials say. They also warn against running generators or cars indoors to heat homes.
In Houston, 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 in the event of a power failure”. A man and a boy were also hospitalized.
In Oregon, four people were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning over the weekend, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.