Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. CO is found in combustion fumes such as those produced by cars, small gas engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood and your heating system. CO can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces poisoning people and animals in that space that are breathing it.
The symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness , nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before even experiencing symptoms.
Red blood cells pick up CO quicker than they pick up oxygen. If there is a lot of CO in the air, the body may replace oxygen in blood with CO. This blocks oxygen from getting into the body, which can damage tissue and result in death.
All people and animals are at risk for CO poisoning. Unborn babies, infants and all people with chronic heart disease, anemia or respiratory problems are more susceptible to its effects. Each year more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning. Fatality is highest among Americans 65 and older.
How can you prevent CO poisoning in your home?
-Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
-DO NOT use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors. Although these heaters don’t have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin or camper.
-If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator’s cooling unit have an expert service it. An odor from the cooling unit of your gas refrigerator can mean you have a defect in the cooling unit. It could also be giving off CO.
-When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency.
-Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
-All gas appliances must be vented so that CO will not build up in your home, cabin or camper.
-Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
-Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
-Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin or camper.
-Horizontal vent pipes to fuel appliances should not be perfectly level. Indoor vent pipes should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors. This helps prevent CO or other gases from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
-DO have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
–DO install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.
-DO seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseous.
–DON’T use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
–DON’T run a car inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
–DON’T burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
–DON’T heat your house with a gas oven.
If you haven’t had your gas or oil fired furnace serviced in the past year and would like to do so, give us a call at any of our three offices.
If you would like to read the full article on Carbon Monoxide please go to www.cdc.gov .