Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.
What to do:
If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:
GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.
Prevention is the Key to Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
Have your fuel-burning appliances -- including 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 at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition, and not blocked.
Choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed, and maintain them according to manufacturersí instructions.
Read and follow all of the instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel-burning.
DONíT idle your car in a garage -- even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
DONíT use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
DONíT ever use a charcoal grill indoors -- even in a fireplace.
DON'T sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
DONíT use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.
DONíT ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing.
A Few Words About CO Detectors
Carbon Monoxide Detectors are widely available in stores and you may want to consider buying one as a back-up -- BUT NOT AS A REPLACEMENT for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. However, it is important for you to know that the technology of CO detectors is still developing, that there are several types on the market, and that they are not generally considered to be as reliable as the smoke detectors found in homes today. Some CO detectors have been laboratory-tested, and their performance varied. Some performed well, others failed to alarm even at very high CO levels, and still others alarmed even at very low levels that donít pose any immediate health risk. And unlike a smoke detector, where you can easily confirm the cause of the alarm, CO is invisible and odorless, so itís harder to tell if an alarm is false or a real emergency.
Carbon Monoxide Can Be Deadly
"The silent killer"
You canít see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous.
However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible.
As of July 1, 2011 the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act (Senate Bill - SB 183 will require all single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source to install carbon monoxide detectors within the home by July 1, 2011. Owners of multi-family leased or rental dwellings, such as apartment buildngs, have until January 1, 2013 to comply with the law. More Information >