Carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless – and potentially lethal. Proper ventilation in homes and businesses usually keeps levels well below the point where it can cause harm. However, when ventilation is not set up properly, is blocked off, or carbon monoxide is produced in large quantities, people can be in danger.
Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide can affect anyone when it reaches dangerous levels, but infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease or anemia, and people with breathing problems are especially vulnerable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room each year for carbon monoxide poisoning; 4,000 are hospitalized and 400 die.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning begin with headaches, dizziness, nausea, chest pains, and confusion. Continued exposure to high levels of gas can lead to a loss of consciousness and eventual death.
Producers of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is produced by many household items and various equipment used in many industries. Any time fuel is burned, carbon monoxide is produced. This means stoves, cars, furnaces, water heaters, lanterns, grills, etc. all produce the gas.
Harmless levels of carbon monoxide are present in all homes and nearly everywhere else. It is only when carbon monoxide is allowed to build up in an area that it poses a danger to humans.
Detecting Carbon Monoxide and Preventing Poisoning
Installing a carbon monoxide detector is the best way to detect potential buildups of the gas in a home and prevent poisoning. These detectors should be placed near all bedrooms and be maintained regularly to ensure correct functioning. Not all carbon monoxide detectors are equally effective; research detectors online before choosing which to buy.
Having detectors is only part of a system that needs to be in place to prevent carbon monoxide buildups that can lead to poisoning in homes.
- Never start a fire in a fireplace without first opening the flue and inspecting the chimney for buildups.
- Have chimneys cleaned regularly to prevent blockages, which can prevent ventilation of carbon monoxide.
- Never start a car in a closed garage. Car exhaust contains high levels of carbon monoxide, which can build up quickly in an enclosed space.
- When using a wood-burning stove, ensure the doors close fully and it vents correctly so the gas does not escape into the house.
- Always use appropriate fuel in kerosene heaters.
- Inspect all gas appliances in the home regularly and have them serviced by professionals.
- Heating systems, especially furnaces, need to be inspected yearly by an expert for any damage or other problems.
- Never operate gasoline-powered machines indoors.
- Never bring a grill indoors and start it.
- If you have a gas refrigerator and smell an odor coming from it, contact a technician immediately; this may be a sign of a carbon monoxide leak.
- Do not use a gas range or oven for heating.
Carbon monoxide typically does not pose a threat because detectors, ventilation, and simple safety measures usually are enough to prevent incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you need to make sure that you are protected, call us for more information about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.