Protect Your Family Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Every winter we read about another instance of carbon monoxide poisoning in the news, and all too often, the deaths that occur from it. During these months when the house is closed up for winter, it is imperative to secure your home and family against carbon monoxide leaks, also known as “the silent killer.”
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that is found in the fumes resulting from burning fuel. It can be generated from vehicles like cars and trucks, small engines, furnaces, grills, fireplaces, and even gas ranges. You may recall hearing warnings about appropriate generator use when the electricity is out, and cautionary directions on why not to use a kerosene heater without proper ventilation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 400 Americans are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning each year, more than 4,000 are hospitalized, and more than 20,000 visits to the emergency room are reported.
Are there symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Often, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning appear as a slight dizziness or a “flu-like” feeling with the most common symptoms including headache, upset stomach, fatigue, drowsiness, nausea or sudden chest pain. With prolonged exposure, symptoms can present as vomiting, confusion, muscle weakness and collapse.
With higher levels of CO, you can pass out or die within minutes. It is very dangerous if the leak occurs at night while the family is sleeping, as no symptoms may be noticed.
Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen within the blood, leading to deprivation of oxygen in the heart, brain and vital organs, and ultimate suffocation.
Recovery can occur within minutes once you are removed from the toxic surroundings, but with acute poisoning, damage to your brain, heart or reproductive ability can be irreversible.
How to protect your family against carbon monoxide poisoning
Install a CO detector. Every home should have a battery-operated or battery backed-up carbon monoxide detector on each floor in a position where its alarm can be heard clearly, even if you are sleeping. Installing a detector with a digital readout can report CO levels, and indicate the highest areas of concentration in your home. Replace your CO detector every five years.
Get your home inspected. CO leaks can occur from pipes that are not vented or joined properly, such as those around gas appliances, water heaters and furnaces. Have the chimney inspected and cleaned yearly to prevent debris buildup, and have your heating system checked and serviced before each winter.
Use equipment properly. Never use portable stoves, flameless chemical heaters or charcoal burners indoors. And if you must use a generator indoors, ensure that it is within 20 feet of a window, door or vent, with a CO detector nearby. Do not use a gas stove for heating as it too can emit CO. Don’t trust a knock-off product; check that all equipment purchased carries a national testing seal such as the one from Underwriter’s Laboratories.
What if I am exposed to carbon monoxide?
If you suspect CO poisoning, get yourself or the victim into the fresh air immediately and do not re-enter the home until the source is found and the situation is resolved. If the levels of CO were low, this may be all that is needed to recover. If symptoms are prominent or if CO levels are high, call 911 or another emergency number for immediate medical attention. Be aware that entering a home with high levels of CO on a rescue attempt can be dangerous and even fatal.
Först Consulting Services Inspections
At Först Consulting Services, we are highly concerned with maintaining a healthy environment for the people in our community, both at work and at home, and offer a range of inspection and home services that can detect or remedy a carbon monoxide problem or identify other problems within your home’s systems.
In addition, if the CO leak was a result of faulty workmanship, Först Consulting Services can provide homeowner advocacy and litigation support. We can help you build a case and provide testimony as an expert witness.