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CDC 24/7 - Protecting People - Maine's Success

Reducing carbon monoxide poisoning

Checking a carbon monoxide detector

What is the problem?

Every year, an estimated 15,200 people seek medical care in an emergency department or miss at least one day of work due to exposure to carbon monoxide(CO) in the U.S. Correctly installing, maintaining, and operating carbon monoxide-emitting devices and appropriately using carbon monoxide detectors can help prevent CO poisoning. Even though no national surveillance system exists for acute CO poisoning, a body of literature describes excess cases of CO poisoning due to power outages from storms, floods, and hurricanes. However, Maine did not have an active tracking system capable of identifying risk factors for CO poisoning.

What did Tracking do?

The tracking program developed a state-wide surveillance system for CO poisoning. This system uses multiple data sources as well as geographic information to identify groups at a higher risk for potential exposure. In addition, tracking staff developed a module for the state's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that allows them to track CO detector use. Tracking staff were able to amend the mandates for the Maine CDC's public health activities to make environmentally related health conditions reportable. In 2008, CO poisoning became the first condition to be included under this mandate.

Improved public health

With data from the CO poisoning surveillance system, the Maine Tracking Program found that almost every case of CO poisoning in the state was associated with not having a CO detector. These data led to new legislation requiring CO detectors in all rental units and in single family homes when there is an addition or renovation and whenever a property is sold.

The law went into effect in September 2009, and the Maine Tracking Network is working to measure the effect of the law on CO poisoning prevention.


Tracking the effect of outdoor air quality on health

Girl using asthma inhaler

What is the problem?

Asthma is one of the most common and costly illnesses in the United States. Maine has one of the highest rates of asthma in the country. About 130,000 Mainers–including 28,000 children–have asthma. Put another way, about one in 10 children and adults in Maine have asthma. Maine often has elevated levels of ozone and particulate matter. People are understandably concerned about the effects of ozone on asthma. Ozone is a main ingredient in smog. At ground level, ozone can be a health risk. Studies have shown that as ozone levels increase, asthma-related hospital stays and emergency department visits tend also to increase.

What did Tracking do?

Maine's Tracking Program linked outdoor ozone data with asthma-related emergency department data. Now scientists can estimate ozone-related asthma cases both in a community and statewide. Further studies show asthma cases associated with ozone levels by age, sex, and geography.

Improved public health

The tracking program has analyzed the association between asthma and outdoor air quality. The health department has used this information to identify Mainers at high risk. Asthma has no cure, but it can be controlled. Learning about this association has helped the Maine Tracking Program provide information to health care professionals. They can now target people who are at risk and can share prevention tips.