Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – The Silent Killer
The Centers for Disease Control reports that, each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional Carbon Monoxide poisoning. More than 20,000 people visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized – this is every year.
Carbon Monoxide is a serious as that affects everyone, especially unborn babies, infants, and people with anemia, chronic heart disease, and respiratory problems. Fatality is very high in people over 65 years of age. Prevention and detection are the only ways to keep this silent killer at bay.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas found in combustible fumes, like vehicle gas, gas stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, and gas ranges and heating systems. In your home potential sources of CO is your furnace, gas stove, a generator, gas dryer and some portable heaters.
CO poisoning is called a ‘silent killer’ because the symptoms are everyday ones that you might attribute to the onset of a cold, such as, headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, and confusion. Even extreme sinus pressure can cause these symptoms. And since CO gas is odorless, you would not know an illness was being caused by it. That’s when a Carbon Monoxide detector will save your life. The detector should be installed around sleeping areas – it detects the gas and will sound an alarm when CO is present. The detector will detect even the smallest traces of CO which is good, because high levels of CO cause loss of consciousness and death. It is recommended to install a CO detector in sleeping areas as a person could die while sleeping before ever experiencing any symptoms.
How does CO gas kill? Well the red blood cells in our body actually pick up CO faster than oxygen. If CO is in the air, then our bodies will replace the natural oxygen found in our systems and replace it with carbon monoxide. The CO then blocks oxygen from getting into the body, causing tissue damage and death.
While CO poisoning can occur any time of the year, winter is an especially dangerous time of the year as we are trying desperately to get and stay warm! If you smell something, don’t guess what it is. Have a qualified technician inspect the appliance.
Other safety precautions:
• Ensure that all your appliances and equipment are safe through an annual inspection.
• Don’t use portable, flameless chemical heaters.
• Don’t use your gas stove as a heater.
• Inspect any gas lines to your gas and dryer, replace if the unit has been moved.
• If you smell gas, call the gas company – they will visit and inspect to locate any leaks.
• Purchase equipment that carries a national safety testing seal, such as the American Gas Association or Underwriters’ Laboratory that ensure product safety.
• Ensure proper ventilation of all your gas appliances, such as dryers, furnaces, and hot water heaters.
• Have your chimney cleaned and check each year – soot build up and a clogged damper will feed smoke back into your home.
• Never burn charcoal or use a grill inside.
• Install generators outside the home – never use indoors.
• Never sit is a vehicle in the garage with the engine started and the door closed.
• Have your vehicle’s exhaust system inspected for leaks.
For more information, visit the CDC’s fact page on carbon monoxide. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home today. Stay warm and remain safe!