The Silent Killer: Carbon Monoxide

According to the CDC, “carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death.”

According to the CDC it is found in combustion produced by cars and trucks, small gas engines such as a lawnmower, stoves, burning wood and charcoal and even a gas lantern. Carbon monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed areas poisoning people and animals who breathe it-in most cases without their knowledge.

Low-level victims suffer from headaches and dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting and chest pain. Higher levels of CO can cause unconsciousness and death. Victims who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning without ever even realizing it is present. It is one of the more difficult types of poisoning that can be diagnosed.

Everybody is at risk from CO poisoning-even small animals, but infants and people with chronic heart disease and respiratory problems are much more susceptible to its effects. Every year over 400 Americans die from CO poisoning and more than 20,000 visit an emergency room with 4,000 of those requiring hospitalization. Folks over 65 are the most susceptible.

According to the CDC only 30% of American homes have functioning carbon monoxide alarms. That is actually a frightening statistic when they are so effective and inexpensive.

CO Poisoning Avoidance Techniques

  1. In order to prevent CO poisoning in your home have all your systems that are gas fired, such as heating, water or other appliances serviced annually by a qualified technician.
  2. Avoid flameless portable chemical heaters indoors. Even though they don’t have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up in your home.
  3. When buying a gas product make sure it has the seal of a national testing organization.
  4. Make sure all gas appliances are properly vented so the gas will not build up in your home.
  5. Never burn anything in a fireplace or stove that is improperly vented.
  6. If you have a vent pipe that develops a hole, never patch it. Replace it instead.
  7. If you have a chimney, have it checked annually to remove any debris that can block it.

The Mayo Clinic tells us to get immediate care for anyone who has carbon monoxide poisoning. They, among others, strongly suggest that you invest in carbon monoxide detectors that should be placed near each sleeping area in your house. The batteries for those detectors should be checked at least twice a year. If the alarm sounds, leave your house and call the fire department right away.

They also tell us to never start your car in a closed garage.

Only use gas appliances as the manufacturer recommends. For example, never use a gas stove to heat your home.

A Forbes magazine article reemphasizes the fact that the only way to detect carbon monoxide poisoning is with a carbon monoxide detector. That same article references a Journal Of The American Medical Association (JAMA) study that says carbon monoxide can pass easily through wall boards, so once it’s in one room it can spread easily throughout the entire house.

If you are going to the trouble of getting a carbon monoxide detector which is highly recommended, you should spend a few extra bucks and get at least a three in one detector that can detect fire, natural gas and carbon monoxide. This carbon monoxide, natural gas and smoke detection system uses smart alarm technology to eliminate nuisance alarms a.k.a. false alarms.

Do you have a CO detector in your house? Please share your experience. We want to hear your thoughts.