Poisoning Risk Significantly Increase with Flooding and Power Outages

Parts of New Jersey are expecting severe weather from Tropical Storm Fay — heavy rain, flooding and power outages to parts of the state.

Poison Control warns that intense storms can put residents at increased risk for potentially serious health effects from, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, medicine contamination/safety, food poisoning, medicine dosing errors, and mistaken identity mishaps.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is an immediate and deadly danger no matter the season and especially after bad weather,” Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D., managing director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Department of Emergency Medicine, said. “Act fast if you suspect CO poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that gives no warning – you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.”

Safety tips to help reduce your risk of carbon monoxide exposure during summer storms:

  • Only use generators outside. Keep them more than 20 feet from both you and your neighbor’s home, doors, windows, and open garages.
  • Do not bring generators, pressure washers, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside your home, basement, garage, carport, camper, boat cabin, or tent – or even outside near an open window or door.
  • Test carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working. If detectors have batteries, check to make sure they are good. Plug-in CO detectors should have battery backups in case the power goes out. Check to make sure.
  • Do not remove the batteries from detectors to use somewhere else. The detector can only save lives if it works!
  • Do not cook with charcoal indoors.
  • Do not idle a car in a closed garage. Once you pull in, immediately turn off the engine. Be extra careful with “remote start” engines which may be on without your knowledge.

If you suspect a carbon monoxide exposure, take immediate action:

  • If someone is unconscious or unresponsive, get him or her out of the house and call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • Exit the house/building immediately. Do not waste time opening windows. This will delay your escape and cause you to breathe in even more dangerous fumes.
  • Contact your local fire department/energy provider.
  • Call the New Jersey Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for immediate medical treatment advice. Do not waste time looking for information on the internet about carbon monoxide poisoning.

Other Poisoning Injuries

Besides, carbon monoxide poisoning, residents are at risk for other poisoning injuries.

Flooding in homes can contaminate food, drinking water, and medicines.

Power outages often lead to medicine dosing errors and mistaken identity mishaps which can result in serious health effects.

Food in refrigerators and freezers can spoil leaving people at risk for food poisoning.

If you suspect a poisoning exposure/injury has occurred, do not wait until symptoms occur or spend critical time looking online. Call your poison control center for immediate help, 1-800-222-1222, or text (973-339-0702). If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up, or seizing, call 9-1-1 immediately.