Carbon monoxide the invisible killer
As the winter temperatures start to take a decline making it cold and blistery outside leaves many Americans finding ways to keep the indoor temperatures warm in hopes of offsetting their heating costs. Just about anything is tried from turning on the stove and opening the oven door to take that bitter chill out of the air. Not being aware of that odorless silent killer carbon monoxide.
According to the United States Fire Administration, carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of 400 Americans each year and sends another 20,000 to the hospital emergency room for treatment. That silent killer carbon monoxide called CO is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States.
CO poisoning is not exclusive to any particular season however, the winter months bringing cold weather and storms producing power outages makes CO poisoning more frequent when we turn on those furnaces and find they are not working properly as thought. Generators or grills are used inside homes causing those CO levels to rise and poison those who are exposed.
Never use gas ovens or stove tops to receive warmth. A fire could start or fill the home with CO fumes. It is not only those gas ovens or stove tops that allow that silent killer to fill the air, any fuel burning equipment can contribute. This includes furnaces, fireplaces, space heaters, water heaters, generators, portable heaters and chimneys.
Carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled it is a invisible odorless colorless gas which is created when fuels like wood, coal, gasoline, natural gas, propane oil or methane burn incompletely.
Just by breathing this gas will enter the body. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms or other illnesses. Symptoms of CO poisoning include shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, headaches or feeling light headed.
No one person is risk free CO poisoning places everyone at risk. Medical experts believe that unborn babies, newborns, children, seniors and those with heart or lung problems may be at higher risk.
To protect yourself and your family from CO poisoning the USFA recommends the following:
Install at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible waring signal near sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Make sure the alarm you purchase has been evaluated by a national recognized laboratory like Underwriters Laboratory (UL). These detectors measure levels of CO over a period of time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average healthy adults would experience symptoms. It is also possible you may not experience symptoms when the alarm sounds. This does not mean that there is no CO present.
Make sure a qualified professional checks all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems once a year.
Never ever heat your home with your range or oven. Charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
Do not keep your automobile running inside the garage. Even if garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent dangerous buildup of CO.
When buying an existing home, have a qualified technician examine the integrity of heating and cooking systems along with sealed spaces between the garage and house.
Carbon monoxide detectors in your home can save your life and your families in the event of CO buildup.
Test your CO detector once a month.
If the alarm should sound, move to a location with fresh air and call for help. Remain outdoors until emergency personnel tells you it safe to go back indoors.
Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.
In Michigan 2009, “The Overbeck Law” had been signed. This law is named after Patty and Gene Overbeck who had died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Patty had accidentally left the car running in the garage. The law requires carbon monoxide detectors to be placed in all new homes.
Rental units in Michigan must have CO detectors hard wired with back up battery.
For a complete list of carbon monoxide detector state statutes they can be viewed online at the National Conference of State Legislatures Carbon Monoxide Detectors. This page was last updated November 2011.
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