Maine CDC Press Release

June 17, 2009

Maine CDC Issues Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Advisory for Those Opening Their Summer Camps

For more information, please contact:
Andrew Smith, SM, ScD
State Toxicologist
(207) 287-5189

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, is issuing an advisory about the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning when people open camps for the summer.

Health officials urge camp owners to make sure their propane-fueled stoves and/or refrigerators are operating properly and safely when turned on for the season. They should also make sure they have a working carbon monoxide detector close to where people sleep.

"Last spring we saw several poisonings in which family members were exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide because of poorly maintained gas-fueled appliances. Some of these poisonings were life-threatening," said State Toxicologist Dr. Andrew Smith. Though early in the season, state health officials have already investigated two camp-related incidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Maine CDC recently made carbon monoxide poisoning a reportable disease and now investigates the causes of all reported poisonings. "This change in reporting will help us identify the causes of carbon monoxide poisonings so we can better inform the public about ways to prevent these hazards," said Smith said.

Each year, there are more than 100 emergency department admissions in Maine due to carbon monoxide poisoning, with between one and five deaths. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless colorless gas emitted when burning most fuels. Improper venting, maintenance, operation or placement of combustion devices can result in poisoning when CO gas builds up in enclosed spaces. CO interferes with the delivery of oxygen to body tissues. Warning signs of CO poisoning are flu-like symptoms, including headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion, but no fever. CO poisoning can cause coma and death.

"The best way to prevent CO poisoning is to make sure combustion devices are well-maintained, regularly serviced, and operated properly," said State Health Officer Dr. Dora Anne Mills. "A carbon monoxide detector with back-up battery power should be placed near every sleeping area."

The Maine State Legislature passed a new law this session that requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all apartments and new single-family dwellings. Detectors are also required in existing single-family dwellings whenever there is a transfer of ownership or the addition of at least one new bedroom.

For information on the new State law requiring carbon monoxide detectors: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/chappdfs/PUBLIC162.pdf