Carbon Monoxide (CO) is the "silent killer" you have heard about and possibly protected against with a CO detector in your home. But do you know sources of CO in your home? In this country, over 1500 people die from CO poisoning each year. It is especially dangerous because it is odorless and can cause unconsciousness and death within minutes. Moreover, the very young and elderly are especially vulnerable to the effects of CO exposure.
Therefore, it is important to learn how CO can build up in your home and to keep you and your family safe.
CO is a product of burning fuels and can build up in your home from improper venting, operating or maintaining appliances such as:
- Gas clothes dryers
- Wood stoves
- Gas ovens
- Water heaters
Your first step in protecting yourself against CO poisoning is to have your appliances inspected and maintained each year by a qualified technician. Technicians can tune appliances to more efficiently burn fuel and check if gasses are being properly vented. Another thing to keep an eye on is accumulating snow on the roof of your house during the winter. If rooftop vents become blocked, rising exhaust cannot properly vent outside.
At the very least, protect your home by installing CO detectors in your main living spaces. Detectors are an inexpensive way to alert you to dangerous CO buildup in the home.
There are also some things not to do in the home. Do not use a generator, or propane heater inside your home or garage, even if you open windows or doors. Do not for any reason use gas or charcoal grills indoors. Do not use a gas oven or dryer to help heat your home. Finally, do not run your vehicle in your garage even if your garage is open.
Signs of CO Poisoning
Headaches & shortness of breath are the beginning signs of poisoning. After mild "flu-like" symptoms, continued exposure to CO causes dizziness, nausea, irritability, stupor, impaired coordination and finally unconsciousness and death. If you feel any of these symptoms, get outdoors into fresh air and call 911.
For more information on CO poisoning, visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/co/