Hospital Emergency Department Visits for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Following an October 2006 Snowstorm in Western New York

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Following an October 2006 snowstorm that caused widespread power outages in western New York State, hospital emergency department (ED) visits for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning increased. Overall, 264 people representing 155 households were diagnosed with CO poisoning during the power outages. Telephone interviews were conducted with a subset of these individuals. Respondents provided information about exposure sources, CO alarms, and awareness of CO warnings. In many households, portable generators were operated in an enclosed area. Awareness of CO warnings may have contributed to knowledge about locating portable generators outside. When operated outside, however, portable generators were generally located too close to the home. Gas kitchen ranges were used for heat by numerous households. In the short term, CO education and improved clarity of CO warning information is important for increasing awareness about power outage–related CO risks. Improvements in the combustion efficiency of portable generators should be a long-term goal.

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