Carbon Monoxide 101

Though carbon monoxide poisoning can happen through out the entire year, it tends to be be more common in the winter months.  Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can kill you.  It is produced anytime we we burn fuel an engine, stoves, gas fireplaces, lanterns, and furnaces.  What happens is the CO (carbon monoxide can build up in the home harming you and your pets.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to those of the flu.  Most people get dizzy, headaches, vomiting, chest pains, and confusion.  Breathing in a lot of the CO (carbon monoxide) gas can make you pass out.  Breathing in these fumes while your sleeping will and can kill you.

Who is at risk?

Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Infants, elderly, yet people with chronic heart disease, anemia, and breathing problems are at a higher risk for CO poisoning.  The CDC states that ” Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”

 How do I prevent this in my home?

There are such simple ways to prevent this happening in your home and to your family that we sometimes just over look it.  Like you your carbon monoxide detector in your home.  While your reading this think about when was the last time you changed those batteries?  A good rule of thumb is to change your batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detector every time you change your clocks.  Twice a year.  Also think about replacing your detector every five years.

Place your carbon monoxide detector somewhere close to where you sleep.  The most important thing is that you will be able to hear it in the middle of the night.  You want to be able to hear it, that is the point.

The CDC has come up with a list of other things you should also do:

  • Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it. An odor from your gas refrigerator can mean it could be leaking CO.
  • When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances, such as a water heater, should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors, as shown below. This prevents CO from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
  • Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal – red, gray, black, or white – gives off CO.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.
  • When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector in your home.

How do I prevent CO poisoning in my vehicle

This is when CO poisoning becomes so common in the winter.  We never want to drive a cold car in the colder months so we tend to start it before we leave.  If you are in a garage the most important thing to remember is to open the door and pull your car out.  Especially if your garage is attached to the home.  The fumes coming out of your tail pipes is that CO gas.

If you are turning your car on in the driveway make sure your tailpipe is free of any snow, those CO gases we mentioned have no place to escape so they travel right back into your car.


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