Should I Be Concerned About Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide dangers are greater than you might think – every year, this odorless and colorless gas kills over 500 people in the US alone, with up to 30,0000 others sick from the fumes. Many people are affected in their homes, and if you have drywall in your house, you are at even more of a risk, as the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently discovered that carbon monoxide can pass through this material.

Of course, one of the best ways to warn yourself of the potential carbon monoxide dangers is to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed, although as of 2012 only half the states had this requirement. However, homeowners or tenants in 10 states who don’t have an internal source of carbon monoxide in their homes are exempt from these requirements. This loophole worries several experts, including Seattle based physicist and the author of the JAMA study, Neil Hampson, and Eric Lavonas, director of the Colorado based Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center. Both make the same point that it is quite possible to be sickened, or even die, from your neighbor’s carbon monoxide leak, if you live in an apartment or a multi family dwelling. In 2002, an ice storm cut off the power in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, which led to over 120 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning over the next week. Almost all of these cases were in homes without a working carbon monoxide alarm. This followed a recent ruling in the county that carbon monoxide alarms could be operated by electricity, and some residences without an attached garage were exempt. Following this incident, residents of the county were required to have a back up battery operated alarm.

Despite this and similar cases, and the well publicized carbon monoxide dangers, an estimated 70 percent of homes in the US don’t have a working carbon monoxide alarm. Not only is a working alarm essential, it is the law in some communities, and you should make sure your alarm still works if the power goes out. Knowing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is important too. Follow us for more informative articles on heating, air conditioning and other home needs.

Tips For Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In Your Home

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which causes potentially deadly poisoning. It’s normally produced when fuel is burnt. This means that any appliance that burns fuel within the house is a potential source of this gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning results when one inhales so much of this gas that it replaces oxygen in the bloodstream.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Space heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, water heaters and gas central heating are the leading sources of carbon monoxide. The gas can leak to the atmosphere when such devices are poorly vented. Exhaust gases from a car parked in a closed garage can also produce the gas. On average, carbon monoxide poisoning results in around 40 fatalities and 300 injuries each year. However, such cases are under reported because there’s no automatic testing for carbon monoxide of people who succumb suddenly.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The initial symptoms are similar to the flu, albeit without the fever. Such include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, irregular breathing and headaches. If one has any of these symptoms and they feel better when they go outside but they reappear once they’re back indoors, they may have carbon monoxide poisoning.

What to do

If poisoning is suspected or detected, one is advised to get outside the car or building they’re presently in. You should then keep still to conserve oxygen in the blood, which recedes due to replacement by the gas. Immediate treatment is also important. At the ER, most cases are treated by administering oxygen therapy via a mask.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms should be installed on each level of the home and near bedrooms. These should meet industry safety standards and also comply with local regulations for domestic installation. It’s also advisable to call a certified professional to handle HVAC systems and correct any leaks.

Appliances, vents and chimneys should also be inspected for visible rust, soot, blockage, stains and corrosion. They should also be inspected annually. When in use, they should be vented properly to allow the gas to escape from enclosures. The fireplace should also not be closed before the fire is extinguished completely.

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