[Skip to Content]

December is one of the busiest months for carbon monoxide exposure cases

Carbon monoxide detector

FOR RELEASE: Dec. 11th, 2019

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Upstate New York Poison Center prepares itself every winter for an influx of calls in November, December and January. This is due to winter storms and power outages when many families use a generator too close (or inside) the home causing the colorless, odorless gas to leak and potentially kill an otherwise healthy family.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen at any time, though. Laurie Pinzel, her husband and son from Lockport, NY were exposed in the winter of 2016. Their chimney was blocked and all three breathed in the CO and became ill. The family had unplugged their detector because it needed new batteries. Jennifer Winder’s father from the Capital Region died with his partner in Mexico from a faulty heater. There was no carbon monoxide detector in the rental apartment. Individuals are interviewed in a video at end of this release.

“Carbon monoxide, believe it or not, is the leading cause of poisoning death in this country,” says Jeanna Marraffa, PharmD, assistant clinical director of the poison center, “The scariest part of carbon monoxide poisoning is it is colorless and odorless. Without appropriate detection, like a functioning detector in your home, you won’t know you are being exposed to the poisonous gas.”

In all of 2018, the Upstate New York Poison Center handled 217 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. Monroe, Onondaga, and Orange counties had the highest number of cases. 2018 was also the highest amount of cases we received in the last five years. The most calls came in November, December and January. 87% were due to unintentional poisoning. There was one death and 71% of cases were treated in a hospital. Adults 20 and older made up the most cases.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is 100% preventable:

  • All homes should have a working detector (or several) with back-up batteries
  • If you use a generator when the power goes out, don’t use it inside your home, porch or garage. Place it at least 20 ft. from the house
  • Make sure your chimney and flues are working properly
  • Seek immediate attention if you are feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseated and suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. If others in your home feel the same way, you could be breathing in CO
  • Do not run a car or truck inside your home
  • Some other sources of CO include boat exhaust, and combustion of fuels such as gasoline powered devices like ride on lawn mowers, snow blowers and leaf blowers

 If your carbon monoxide alarm sounds:

  • Get outside to fresh air
  • Call us – 1-800-222-1222
  • If anyone is unconscious or having seizures call 911

To learn more about carbon monoxide, check out our new video here to inform families on how to keep themselves safe.

For additional information on carbon monoxide poisoning, check out these resources from the poison center.



In the case of a poisoning or for information purposes, call the Upstate New York Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. We are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Each year our center manages more than 50,000 calls from health care providers, 911 operators, hospitals, industry, schools, and the general public in our 54-county service area.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest information.

About Upstate New York Poison Center

Housed inside Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, the Upstate New York Poison Center is dedicated to reducing the number, cost and severity of poisonings within its designated 54-county service area as mandated by New York State Law. The Center is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to both health professionals and the general public at 1-800-222-1222.

About Upstate Medical University

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, is the only academic medical center in Central New York. It is also the region's largest employer with 9,460 employees. Affiliated with the State University of New York, Upstate's mission is to improve the health of the community through education, biomedical research and health care.