How to Be Safe from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, often released from appliances and other devices that generate combustion fumes, like those that burn gas or other petroleum products. Breathing it in can make you unwell and can greatly diminish your ability to absorb oxygen, leading to serious tissue damage. Carbon monoxide poisoning can also lead to death.
The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning What makes CO so dangerous is the fact that it is odorless and tasteless, and many people cannot tell when they are surrounded by the fumes. According to Forbes report, every year approximately 20,000 to 30,000 people in the United States are sickened by accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and approximately 500 people die, many in their own home. The danger occurs when large quantity of carbon monoxide accumulates in a contained, poorly ventilated space. Although the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle, it can cause lifethreatening medical emergency. So, you should not delay and get instant medical attention for anyone who may have become victim of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Causes of Carbon Monoxide CO poisoning is caused via inhaling combustion fumes. When there is large quantity of carbon monoxide in the air, your body replaces the oxygen in the hemoglobin of your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This prevents life-sustaining oxygen from reaching your
organs and tissues. Various appliances fueled by gas or wood produce carbon monoxide.
Some vital sources of carbon monoxide include
Wood-burning stoves Car and truck engines Fireplaces Portable generators Water heaters Charcoal grills Cooking ranges Fuel-burning space heaters Furnaces Smoke inhalation during a fire
Usually, the amount of CO produced by the aforementioned sources is not a cause for concern. But if you do not keep the appliances in proper working condition or if they are used in a closed or partially closed space, like running your car in a closed garage or using a charcoal grill indoors- carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels.
How can I protect myself and my family from CO poisoning? The best way to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning is to be aware of the dangers and identify appliances that could emit CO gas. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Furthermore, install carbon monoxide detectors or alarms in your home that will give you an audible warning in case there is a carbon monoxide leak in your home.
1. Identify and Maintain CO emitting Appliances Homes with fuel-burning appliances like ovens, water heaters, gas furnaces and fireplaces or homes with attached garage have more chances of CO emission as compared to homes not using these appliances. So, follow the below guidelines to protect yourself and your family members in your home.
Get appliances, heating systems, cookers and boilers regularly serviced by a reputable and registered engineer. Never attempt to install or service appliances yourself. Keep your home appliances safe and well maintained. Do not use gas ranges or ovens to heat your home. Keep your rooms properly ventilated and do not block air vents. If your home is double-glazed or draught-proof, make sure there is still enough air circulation. Make sure all flues and chimneys are swept regularly by a qualified expert. Always use a safety mask when working with chemicals that contain methylene chloride. Fit an extractor fan in your kitchen (if it does not already have one) Do not sleep in a room while using a paraffin heater. Do not burn charcoal in an enclosed space, like an indoor barbecue. Never leave petrol-fuelled cars or lawnmowers running in the garage. Ensure to check the exhaust of your car on a yearly basis for leaks.
Make sure that the exhaust is not blocked before turning the engine on, for instance, after heavy snowfall.
2. Be Aware of the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:
Blurred vision Loss of consciousness Shortness of breath Confusion
Dull headache Nausea Vomiting Weakness Dizziness
CO poisoning can be especially dangerous for people who are intoxicated or sleeping. The inhaled fumes may be fatal before anyone realizes there is a problem. So, remain alert about the symptoms of CO poisoning and take instant action when you notice any or some of the aforementioned symptoms. Sometimes, you may get confused between the symptoms of CO poisoning and flu. So, how to differentiate between the two? Well, the symptoms could be CO poisoning, if
You start feeling better when you move outdoors and breath in fresh air. Several members of your family get sick at the same time (flu typically passes from person to person). Normally seen in flu, you do not have swollen lymph nodes, generalized aching or fever.
Your indoor pets also appear sick (in fact, pets may start experiencing the symptoms first). You experience the symptoms shortly after switching on a fuelburning device or running your car in an attached garage. The family members who show the maximum signs spent significant time at home.
3. Install Carbon Monoxide Alarm or Detector Almost half of all unintentional CO poisoning deaths could be prevented with the use of carbon monoxide alarm or detector. While buying, make sure that the alarm is Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved. The cost of a CO alarm is minimal in view of the fact that it can save lives of you and your family members. It is advisable to install a CO alarm on every floor of your home and within hearing range of the sleeping area. Carefully follow the manufacturers’ instructions for its installation, placement, use and maintenance.
Are some people at greater risk of CO poisoning? Exposure to carbon monoxide may be particularly dangerous for:
Older Adults- Elderly people who experience CO poisoning may be more likely to suffer brain damage. Children- Young children breathe in more frequently than adults, which may make them more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. Unborn Babies- Fetal blood cells take up carbon monoxide more readily as compared to adults. This makes unborn babies more vulnerable to harm from CO poisoning.
Furthermore, people with respiratory conditions like emphysema and asthma, cardiovascular disease, anemia and individuals engaging in strenuous physical activities are at a greater risk.
If the CO alarm goes off Follow the below instructions if your installed CO alarm goes off
Make sure that your CO detector alarm and not smoke detector alarm has gone off. Instantly ascertain whether any member of your home is experiencing symptoms of poisoning. If one or more members are experiencing the symptoms, instantly get them out of your home and seek medical attention. If no member is feeling symptoms, open doors and windows to ventilate your home with fresh air. Turn off all potential sources of carbon monoxide, like gas or kerosene space heater, gas range and oven, gas water heater, oil or gas furnace and any vehicle or small engine.
Contact a qualified technician to inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to ensure that they are functioning correctly and there is nothing blocking the fumes from being vented out of your home.
Just remember that prevention is the key to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. So, closely follow the aforementioned prevention measures and vital steps to be taken in case of CO poisoning and keep yourself and your family members safe.