They call it the silent killer. And already this winter, more than a dozen people in central Alabama have fallen victim to carbon monoxide.
Fortunately, no deaths have been reported. But 13 people have been hospitalized in the past three days. Now doctors are warning about the dangers of the gas.
The first incident happened over the weekend at a Tallassee laundromat. Eight customers complained of symptoms typical of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Around the same time, a whole family was exposed to the gas at their apartment in Montgomery's Gibbs Village.
The father rushed his five children to the emergency room at Baptist Medical Center South, where three of the children were admitted for oxygen therapy.
"The oxygen tends to make the carbon monoxide get out of the blood stream faster," said ER Doctor Buddy Smith.
Smith says symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning range from mild headaches and dizziness to unconsciousness and even death.
That's why experts recommend taking precautions.
Check your furnace, water heater, and other gas appliances. Carbon monoxide is produced by the inefficient burning of fuels.
Also, clear the flu of your fireplace and ensure adequate ventilation in your home.
But installing a carbon monoxide detector is the most important thing you can do. They're different from smoke alarms and are readily available at hardware stores. They cost around $20.
Because carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, a detector is the only way to know it's there.
"Until the symptoms start, you don't realize there's a problem, so a detector could save your life," Smith said.
Back at Gibbs Village, the housing authority is checking out the apartment in question. And at the Tallassee laundromat, carbon monoxide levels have dissipated. The owner says he installed a detector immediately after the incident.
Experts say if you think you've been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should get into the fresh air immediately and see a doctor.
Reporter: Mark Bullock