Carbon Monoxide- The Silent Killer
What is carbon monoxide (CO) and how is it produced?
The leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America, Carbon Monoxide (CO) is odorless, tasteless and invisible– it’s a silent killer. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas. Products, such as malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances- furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters and fireplaces, as well as equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.
On average, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products and yet even more die from cars left running in attached garages.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, most people do not know that they are being exposed. Studies have found that repeated, continued exposure to low levels of CO can be just as damaging and even deadly as high levels of CO. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are very similar to the flu, minus the fever and include:
- Shortness of breath
High Level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:
- Mental confusion
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Loss of consciousness
How can I prevent CO poisoning?
- Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals.
- Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
- Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owners manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.
- Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
- Install a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL 2034 safety standard. A CO alarm can provide some added protection, but it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure the alarm cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.
- Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
- Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
- Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.
- During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
The only safe way to know if carbon monoxide is present is to install carbon monoxide detectors (alarms) on every level of your home and in sleeping areas. CO alarms are available for boats and recreational vehicles and should be used.
Do you offer CO Detectors?
Yes, we install CO detectors in homes. Have you thought about a Nest Protect? Nest Protect constantly looks for dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. You can’t see it, but Nest Protect can. If Nest Protect’s carbon monoxide alarm goes off, your Nest Thermostat automatically turns off your gas furnace– a possible source of poisonous carbon monoxide leaks.
Contact one of our Comfort Care Team Members for details.