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Carbon monoxide causes a rise in the aftermath of storms and outages

As Houston residents continue to deal with the aftermath of Thursday’s storm, which has so far resulted in widespread power outages and eight reported deaths, officials are warning the public about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by portable generators.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said on social media Monday that the Houston Fire Department has responded to at least 80 carbon monoxide incidents since last Thursday’s storm. Peña said one incident involved four children who were transported to a hospital after a running generator was placed near the front door.

Rodney Reed, assistant chief of the Harris County Fire Department, also said there has been an increase in carbon monoxide emergency calls in unincorporated Harris County since Thursday’s storm.

“Fire departments in Harris County (including the City of Pearland) responded to 120 carbon monoxide alarm calls (from) May 16 through May 20,” Reed wrote in an email.

Reed wrote that the 106 calls occurred north of Interstate 10 and west of Interstate 45, with the CyFair Fire Department responding to 62 such calls — the most of any fire department in an unincorporated area.

However, Reed said that when the firefighter receives an alarm, carbon monoxide poisoning is not always the ultimate reason.

A man in his 60s recently died of carbon monoxide poisoning at a home near Spring Branch, Peña said, bringing the death toll from Thursday’s storm to eight.

Carbon monoxide has no odor, taste or color and breathing in too much of it can cause serious tissue damage or death. Carbon monoxide is released when fuels such as gas, wood, propane or charcoal are burned. When burned in an area with poor ventilation, the gas can build up and become fatal.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms without fever.

The National Fire Protection Association has provided tips to avoid carbon monoxide exposure while using a generator: