Carbon Monoxide Statistics:
Carbon monoxide (CO) is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, "there are approximately 2,100 unintentional deaths from carbon monoxide (CO) every year in the U.S. and the use of CO Alarms could potentially prevent many of these fatalities." In addition, more than 10,000 CO injuries occur annually from this colorless, odorless and tasteless poison.
Carbon monoxide (CO) can be produced when burning any fuel: gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood and coal. It is the product of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide can kill in minutes or hours depending on the level of CO in the air.
If CO is inhaled at damaging levels it can lead to breathing difficulties, impaired judgment and memory, damage to the nervous system, cardiac trauma, brain damage, coma and even death.
Everyone is susceptible, but experts agree that unborn babies, young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with heart or respiratory problems are especially vulnerable and are at the highest risk for death or serious injury.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide:
Initial symptoms are similar to the flu with no fever. Dizziness, fatigue/weakness, throbbing headache, nausea/vomiting, irregular breathing, sleepiness and confusion can all be possible symptoms.
Potential sources of carbon monoxide:
Any fuel burning appliance that is malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO. These can include furnaces, gas range/stove, gas clothes dryer, water heater, gas or wood fireplaces, wood-burning stove and auto exhaust from an attached garage. Other sources include clogged chimneys or flues, vent pipes, fuel burning space heaters, tools that run on fuel in an area that is not vented, a gas or charcoal grill used in an enclosed area, certain types of swimming pool heaters, boats and RV's. Back drafting and changes in air pressure can cause indoor levels of CO.
Methods of protection:
Every year have the heating system, vents, chimney, and flue tested, inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician. Never leave a car running in an attached garage. Install a carbon monoxide alarm near the sleeping areas and on every level of the home. Regularly examine vents and chimneys for improper connections, visible rust or
- Install CO alarms (listed by an independent testing laboratory) inside your home to provide early warning of accumulating CO.
- CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each separate sleeping area.
- After purchasing an alarm, call your local fire department's non-emergency telephone number to find out what number to call if the CO alarm sounds. Post that number by your telephone(s) and make sure everyone in the household knows the difference between the fire emergency and CO emergency numbers (if there is a difference).
- Test CO alarms at least once a month, and replace CO alarms according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle, generator, or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Never leave your vehicle running when it is parked or covered in snow.
- Have fuel-burning household heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood and coal stoves, space or portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year before cold weather sets in.
- When using a fireplace, open the flue for adequate ventilation.
- Open a window slightly whenever using a kerosene or gas heater. (Kerosene heaters are illegal in many states. Always check with local authorities before buying or using one.) Only refuel outside, after the device has cooled.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Only use barbecue grills – which can produce CO – outside. Never use them in the home or garage.
- When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select products tested and labeled by an independent testing laboratory.
- 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.
- When camping, remember to use battery-powered heaters and flashlights in tents trailers, and motor homes.
- CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home and in or outside all sleeping areas.
- Know the difference between the sound of the smoke alarms and the sound of the CO alarms.
If your CO alarm sounds
- Immediately move everyone outdoors.
- Report the CO alarm warning by calling the appropriate phone number.
- Call a qualified technician to inspect all equipment.
Symptoms of CO poisoning
- Severe headache, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea, or faintness. Many of these symptoms are similar to the flu, food poisoning or other illnesses.
Carbon Monoxide poisonings are one of the most preventable situations occurring in America today. The loss of life is senseless. Purchase, install and maintain a good quality CO detector today, and call a qualified service contractor to test the fired appliances in your home tomorrow. Together, we CAN stop the rising death toll.