Carbon Monoxide: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a serious public health problem. More than 10,000 are poisoned by carbon monoxide and need medical treatment each year; More than 500 people in the United States die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO is found in the fumes that are produced every time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, flashlights, grills, fireplaces, gas stoves, or ovens. CO can accumulate indoors and poison people and animals that breathe it.

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. The symptoms of CO are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO, you can pass out or kill you. People who are asleep or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they show symptoms.

So how can you prevent CO poisoning in your home?

  • Install a battery-operated or battery-backed CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Place your detector where it will wake you up if the alarm sounds, such as outside your bedroom. Replace your CO detector every five years.
  • Have a qualified technician check your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or charcoal appliances every year.
  • Do not use flameless portable chemical heaters indoors.
  • If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator, have an expert check it out. An odor from your gas refrigerator could mean that it could be leaking CO.
  • When buying gas equipment, buy only equipment that bears the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
  • Make sure your gas appliances have adequate ventilation. The horizontal vents on appliances should rise slightly as they move to the outside. This prevents CO leakage if the joints or pipes are not tight.
  • Have your fireplace checked or cleaned every year. Debris can block chimneys. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
  • Never use a gas stove or oven for heating. Using a gas stove or oven for heating can cause a build-up of CO inside your home, cabin, or caravan.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage, or within 20 feet of any window, door, or vent.

Freestanding carbon monoxide detectors typically cost between $ 20 and $ 50. Despite the relatively low cost, security checks have shown that fewer than one in ten homes had a carbon monoxide detector.

Being informed about the potential dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and taking some proactive safety measures can help prevent unnecessary harm to yourself and your loved ones.

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