You can't see it or smell it, but it can kill you. So, what can you do?
It's no secret that Carbon Monoxide (CO) can be deadly. Hundreds of people young and old die of emission
poisoning every year, from cars, gas stoves and other fuel burning appliances. Question is, how can
you defend yourself against the so called "silent killer"? Carbon monoxide is produced when fossil
fuels like gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal are burned. Use your fuel burning appliances properly
and the amount of CO is minimal and not life threatening. Use them improperly or in a state of disrepair
and you're risking your life.
Safety tips, advice, and resources found in this section have been
recommended by a number of reputable organizations devoted to carbon monoxide
safety. You will find links to these and other safety-related organizations
throughout this site.
Download a Printable Version of these tips
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HOW DOES CARBON MONOXIDE ENTER THE HOME?
- A recent report from the United States reports that up to 30% of newly remodeled energy efficient buildings
have indoor air quality problems related to CO. New homes are constructed to seal in as much heat as possible. While
this conserves energy, it limits free air exchange.
- CO is produced by the incomplete combustion of fuel. Appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, stoves and space
heaters that are fueled by natural gas, propane, kerosene or wood emit CO.
- If these appliances are not properly installed, maintained or used, dangerous CO can result.
WHAT ARE CO POISONING SYMPTOMS?
CO poisoning is difficult to diagnose
Symptoms are similar to illnesses such as the flu
or the start of a cold. At low levels, you or our family may experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Mild nausea
- Mild headaches
to mild levels can have serious long term health effects:
- Severe headaches
- Dizziness or faintness
- Mental confusion
Symptoms will often become worse with continued exposure, and may include:
- Severe headaches
- Mental confusion
- Vision and hearing impairment
- Unconsciousness. When CO poisoning reaches this final stage, memory loss, permanent brain damage,
coma and eventually death can result.
If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:
- Get fresh air. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
- Get to a hospital. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can be diagnosed by a blood test done soon
- Prepare. Answering these questions will help your physician diagnose you:
- Do your symptoms occur only in the house?
- Do they disappear or decrease when you leave home and appear when you return?
- Does anyone else in your house have similar symptoms?
- Do symptoms appear about the same time as everyone else?
- Do you use fuel-burning appliances in the home?
- Have you had these appliances inspected lately?
- Are your appliances working properly?
Prevention can keep you alive and well.
- Inspect it. Have all oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens,
gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves inspected by a trained professional
prior to every winter. Make sure your flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition, and not blocked.
- According to the instructions…. Choose appliances that vent fumes outside, have them installed
professionally, and maintain them to manufacturer instructions.
- A little goes a long way. Read and follow all instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device.
Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window for ventilation.
- Don't use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
- Of running cars and closed garages…. Don't idle your car in a garage, even if the garage door to the
outside is open. Fumes build up fast in the garage and in your home.
- Not even in a fireplace. Don't use a charcoal grill indoors.
- Curling up with kerosene can kill you. Never sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
- Do it outside. Use gasoline-powered mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators
where nature intended it, outside.
- If you feel sick, see your doctor. Don't ignore unusual or flu-like symptoms, particularly if more
than one person is feeling them in your house. Be aware. Be prepared. And stay safe.
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