Carbon monoxide exposure rises in Panhandle due to extreme weather

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 10:34 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - As temperatures in the Texas Panhandle remain below freezing causing recent power outages, many are trying everything they can to stay warm.

In an effort to stay warm, some are going to extreme lengths.

Some efforts are proving to be dangerous and evenly deadly.

“We have not seen this level of exposure in as long as I can remember. This just tells us there is just a level of desperation for warmth that people are seeking that we have not seen in the past,” said Dr. Jeanie Jaramillo-Stametz, managing director, Texas Panhandle Poison Center at TTUHSC-Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy.

Since Sunday, the Texas Poison Center says over 350 calls have been made regarding carbon monoxide exposure.

Typically, they receive a few calls a week.

“What we are seeing that we have not seen in the past is people bringing in charcoal grills into their homes to try and heat. So using coal and charcoal to heat and that’s resulting in carbon monoxide exposures,” said Dr. Jaramillo-Stametz.

Dr. Jaramillo- Stametz says people are doing whatever they can to stay warm without power.

However, for the Amarillo Fire Department, cases like these have been seen before.

“The things we’ve seen is kind of remarkable. People will use bar-b-que grills and bring them into the house,” said captain Cody Snyder, Public Information Officer, Amarillo Fire Department.

Not only are people bringing heating supplies inside, but they are also utilizing other heating sources outside.

“Many people are choosing to go out and sit in their car to warm up. They turn the car on. If the car is in an enclosed garage, then that is a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning as well,” said Dr. Jaramillo-Stametz.

She says people are even going to their cars to charge their phone.

AFD has also seen an increase in calls due to the weather.

“When it gets cold, our calls go up significantly. People aren’t getting out. They are using all kinds of different means to stay warm,” said Captain Snyder.

If your power does go out, and you don’t have a heating source that was designed to be a heating source, AFD recommends blankets.

“We don’t recommend the use of devices that aren’t designed to heat the home because those can be toxic and result in death,” said Dr. Jaramillo-Stametz.

Dr. Jaramillo- Stametz says carbon monoxide exposure can look a lot like the flu and include a headache and nausea.

She also says if you cannot heat your house safely without using gas, seek other shelter, like a warming station.

A list of warming stations can be found here.

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