Carbon Monoxide Safety 101
According to the CDC, unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings are responsible for about 500 deaths and 15,000 visits to emergency rooms annually. Carbon monoxide or CO is an odorless and colorless gas that is virtually undetectable. In many cases, people don’t know that they are being exposed to it.
Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a fuel source like natural gas, propane, gasoline, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. Many things we encounter on a daily basis produce carbon monoxide. Cars, stoves, gasoline engines, and heating systems all produce CO when they are running. However, it is only dangerous in large amounts or after prolonged exposure in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space.
Let’s take a look at what carbon monoxide poisoning is, some of its symptoms and some safety precautions you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when CO builds up in the bloodstream. When there is too much carbon monoxide in the air, the body replaces the oxygen in red blood cells with carbon monoxide.
The CDC says that infants, the elderly, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia or breathing problems are more prone to illness or death as a result of carbon monoxide exposure. However, carbon monoxide poisoning can strike anyone.
The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning include:
- Shortness of breath
High level CO poisoning results in more severe symptoms, including:
- Mental confusion
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Loss of consciousness
- Death, in very extreme cases
In some cases, CO poisoning can also have a number long-term effects, including:
- Learning and memory impairments
- Emotional and personality effects
- Sensory and motor disorders
Safety Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Since carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by prolonged exposure to CO in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, many of the things you can do to stay safe revolve around proper ventilation and early notification.
- Never leave a car idling in the garage for an extended period of time – Many people like to leave the car idling in the garage to warm during the colder months, or leave it running while they run into the house to grab something they’ve forgotten. This can be incredibly dangerous. What happens if you forget about the car? Recently an elderly New Jersey couple died because their car was left running in the attached garage and CO accumulated in other parts of their home.
- Make sure gas appliances are properly ventilated – It is a best practice to have your heating system, water heater and any other gas or coal-burning appliances inspected and serviced by a qualified technician every year. They can make sure that everything is in proper working order and that there are no dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.
- Never use a generator in an enclosed space – Fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in minutes if you use a generator inside your home, basement or garage. Stay safe and keep the generator outside!
- Regularly test and replace carbon monoxide detectors – It’s recommended that you test detectors regularly and check the battery twice a year to make sure they are functioning properly. Many detectors will start to make a chirping sound when they are reaching the end of their life and they should be replaced as soon as you hear the chirping.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors that integrate with a monitored home security system – A monitored home security system that features carbon monoxide detection can maximize the safety of your home by detecting gas and sounding an alarm well before dangerous CO levels are reached. Not only will you be notified, but your security company will be as well so they can dispatch the proper authorities to help.
To learn more about the steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from the threat of carbon monoxide, contact us today!