The coming of fall brings cold weather. During this period many of us turn on our heating systems for the first time of the season. Each year unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning claims hundreds of lives and sends thousands of people to the emergency room for treatment. Carbon monoxide poisoning, commonly called the “Silent Killer”, is the leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes; CO can kill before you are aware it is in your home. CO gas can come from several sources: gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, woodburning furnaces or fireplaces, and motor vehicles.
Protect Yourself and Your Family from CO Poisoning
At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health, and the concentration and length of exposure. Medical experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with hear or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.
You can protect yourself and your family by following a few easy steps:
•Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Make sure the alarm has been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.
• Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once per year. Make sure that all appliances are probably vented.
• Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
• Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
• When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.
What Actions Do I Take If My Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off?
If no one is feeling ill:
1. Silence the alarm.
2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).
3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
4. Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.
If illness is a factor:
1. Evacuate all occupants immediately.
2. Call 911.
3. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
4. Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.
Information taken from www.firesafety.gov “Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer”