Info: Facts on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Budget101 Discussion List Archives Budget101 Discussion List Info: Facts on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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      Facts on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

      What is carbon monoxide (CO) and why do I need to understand it? The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that approximately 200 people per year are killed by accidental CO poisoning, with an additional 5000 people injured – more accidental poisonings than any other chemical substance. During winter, when our houses are closed up to keep warm and appliances such as heaters and furnaces are operating, the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning increases dramatically. Known as the “Silent Killer”, carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, colorless toxic gas that is a by-product of combustion and is virtually impossible to detect. Any fuel-burning appliance or device can produce dangerous levels of this gas and must be maintained properly to avoid the build-up of this poison in your home.

      What can cause carbon monoxide poisoning in the home?

        [*]Fuel-fired furnaces (check for cracked furnace exchange) [*]Gas water heaters (check for corroded or disconnected water heater flue) [*]Fireplaces and wood stoves (check for dirty or clogged chimneys) [*]Gas stoves (check for proper installation) [*]Gas dryers (use outside ventilation) [*]Any gas or kerosene appliance such as portable heaters [*]Charcoal grills (don’t operate inside or in an enclosed area such as garage) [*]Gas engines such as lawnmowers, blowers and other yard equipment [*]Automobile exhaust (especially dangerous in an attached garage) [*]Cigarette smoke [*]Anywhere combustion takes place[/list]

        What are the medical effects of carbon monoxide and how do I recognize them?

        Carbon monoxide, when inhaled, deprives your body of the oxygen it needs to survive. It does this by combining with the hemoglobin in your blood. Normally oxygen is transported by hemoglobin, but when carbon monoxide is present, it combines with the hemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) instead of oxygen. This bond with carbon monoxide is 200 times stronger than the bond with oxygen, so it is difficult for your body to eliminate the CO buildup from your bloodstream. That is why carbon monoxide can cause poisoning slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations.

        What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

        The symptoms of CO poisoning are commonly mistaken for other illnesses such as the flu or a cold. Concentration levels of CO in your bloodstream can cause:

          [*]10% concentration – no apparent symptoms (heavy smokers can have as much as 9% COHb) [*]15% concentration – mild headache [*]25% concentration – nausea, serious headache (quick recovery after treatment with oxygen or fresh air) [*]30% concentration – intensified headaches, nausea, dizziness, increased pulse and respiration (potential for long-term effects, especially in infants, children, the elderly, victims of heart disease and pregnant women) [*]45% concentration – unconsciousness, possible collapse, convulsions, coma and eventually death. [*]50%+ concentration – death[/list]

          CAUTION: Carbon monoxide especially affects unborn babies, infants, people with anemia or a history of heart or respiratory disease and pregnant women.

          How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in my home?

          Take these simple steps:

            [*]Make sure your fuel-burning appliances – oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves – are installed and working according to manufacturers’ instructions and local building codes. [*]Have all of your fuel-burning appliances inspected and cleaned by a professional at the beginning of every heating season. [*]Make certain that flues and chimneys are connected, unclogged and in good working condition. [*]Have only a qualified technician install or convert fuel-burning equipment from one type to another. [*]Never use ovens and gas ranges to heat your home. [*]Never use a charcoal grill inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle or camper – even in a fireplace. [*]Never leave your car idling or a mower or blower running in a closed garage. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home. [*]Make sure your furnace has an adequate intake of outside air. [*]Choose appliances that vent fumes to the outside whenever possible. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, follow the cautions that come with the device carefully. [*]Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open when using gas or kerosene space heaters. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper burning of fuel. Never sleep in an enclosed space with gas or kerosene space heaters. [*]Install carbon monoxide detectors with an audible alarm in your home and garage.[/list]

            DON’T IGNORE SYMPTOMS, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing. Play it safe. If you DO experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

            [*]Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off fuel-burning appliances and leave the house. [*]Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. [*]Be prepared to answer the following questions for the physician:
            [*]Do your symptoms occur only in the house? [*]Do they disappear or decrease when you leave home and reappear when you return? [*]Is anyone else in your household complaining of similar symptoms? [*]Did everyone’s symptoms appear about the same time? [*]Are you using any fuel-burning appliances in the home? [*]Has anyone inspected your appliances lately? Are you certain they are working properly?[/list][/list]

            Carbon monoxide detectors

            Carbon monoxide detectors can be used to help alert you of the presence of CO, but should not be used as a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. There are several types of detectors on the market. As the technology for these detectors is still developing, they are not considered as reliable as the smoke detectors you use in your home. Follow these guidelines when considering a carbon monoxide detector for your home:

              [*]Never purchase a CO detector that is not UL (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) approved or does not have a long-term warranty. [*]Many CO detectors tested performed well. Others failed to alarm at even high levels of CO and others alarmed at levels too low to be concerned about. Do not use a CO detector in place of proper maintenance and ventilation. [*]Research features before buying. [*]Make sure the detector you purchase is easily self-tested and reset to ensure proper functioning. [*]Don’t select a detector based solely on cost. [*]Make sure you have enough detectors to cover your entire house. [*]Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions for placement, use and maintenance. [*]For maximum effectiveness during sleeping hours, place detectors as close to sleeping areas as possible.[/list]

              If you have a CO detector and the alarm goes off:

              [*]Make sure it is your CO detector and not your smoke detector. [*]Check to see if any member of the household is experiencing symptoms of poisoning. [*]If they are, get them out of the house immediately and seek medical attention. Tell the doctor that you suspect CO poisoning. [*]If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate the home with fresh air, turn off all potential sources of CO: your oil or gas furnace, gas water heater, gas range and oven, gas dryer, gas or kerosene space heater and any vehicle or small engine. [*]Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly and that there is nothing blocking the fumes from being vented out of the house.[/list]

              For a complete list of links to detailed information on carbon monoxide poisoning go to:

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Budget101 Discussion List Archives Budget101 Discussion List Info: Facts on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning