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How can I avoid losing a loved one to carbon monoxide poisoning?

When the chill of winter sets in, New York City residents and others are at an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty heaters and other appliances. But there are ways to stay safe from risk of poisoning by this deadly gas.

Because CO is both odorless and colorless, victims of CO poisoning may not realize there is a leak until too late. CO is produced as a byproduct of the burning of fuels like propane, kerosene, wood, coal, charcoal, natural gas and oil. Equipment with internal combustion engines like portable generators and cars also produce CO.

Annually, around 170 people die in America from CO poisoning from non-automotive consumer products like water heaters, space heaters, ovens and furnaces that leak the poisonous gas into homes. But even when it doesn't kill, CO poisoning sends thousands of people to emergency rooms for treatment after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Avoiding these dangers is paramount. Below are some tips to keep you and your family safe this winter.

-- Heating systems should be inspected annually by a professional.

-- Install and operate appliances according to the local building codes and manufacturer's instructions.

-- Chimneys on working fireplaces should be inspected annually for loose or disconnected parts, blockages and corrosion.

-- Only operate generators outside. Opening doors and windows to vent is insufficient to prevent deadly gases from building up.

-- Apartments and homes should have working CO alarms installed to meet the UL 2034 safety standard.

-- Gas appliances like stoves or ovens should never be used to heat a home.

-- Don't use fuel-burning heaters in rooms where people sleep without making sure there is adequate ventilation.

If you or your family members are sickened from CO poisoning or if a tragic accidental death occurs from a faulty appliance or heater, a New York personal injury attorney may be able to help you receive financial compensation.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission, "Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers" Nov. 27, 2014

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