A normal New England winter comes with plenty of dangerous twists: piles of snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures are to be expected. But after January ended with a particularly snowy week, the Northern New England Poison Center noted another danger on the rise: carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the Bangor Daily News, the Northern New England Poison Center typically gets about eight calls per week regarding carbon monoxide poisoning during January and February. Just last week, however, the Center recorded 30 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning — right when Maine was experiencing a heavy snowfall.
According to one doctor at the Center, they’ve been receiving calls from people in a variety of different environments.
“We have had a person in a home, we’ve had a family in a home, we’ve had a business that had vents that were clogged. It really can happen to anybody,” Dr. Simone explained to WCSH 6 Portland.
In one particularly chilling incident in Bar Harbor, a mother and her three children all had to be hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning. The woman reportedly called 911 just a few minutes after the family began feeling sick, and firefighters found that snow had blocked a heating vent outside. Additionally, it’s reported that there were no working carbon monoxide detectors in the house.
Although the Northern New England Poison Center used to see the majority of carbon monoxide cases occur when the power went out and homeowners would “improperly use generators,” it appears that the main cause of carbon monoxide poisoning is from air vents becoming clogged with heavy, dry snow.
Since February has just barely begun, health centers and HVAC companies across the country are urging homeowners to pay more attention to their home heating systems, especially if they live in a region that gets a lot of snow and ice.
“Carbon monoxide is directly associated with the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuel, like natural gas, propane, fuel oil, etc, and can become harmful, possibly even fatal to homeowners if there’s a malfunction of the combustion appliance vent system that allows dangerous CO to leak or back-up into the home,” says Tom Casey, Owner of Climate Partners located in Milford, CT. “Both can be prevented with professional maintenance. Best practice is to always have CO alarms at crucial areas in the home, including the mechanical room (where CO is created), as well as every level of the home, including sleeping areas. When it comes to CO safety, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.”