Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that claims unsuspecting lives each year. Carbon monoxide poisonings are on the rise, and consumers should take steps to protect their families from falling victim to this silent killer. Carbon monoxide (CO) kills quickly and silently. More than 500 residential deaths in the United States are attributed to CO each year.
CO doesn't discriminate. Anyone with fuel-burning appliances such as gas furnaces, ovens, ranges, and portable heaters is a potential victim. Fumes from auto exhausts and improperly vented fireplaces, the use of cooking appliances for heat, and the use of charcoal inside the home are other sources of this poison. CO poisoning can also occur after using varnish remover in a poorly ventilated setting.
Basically, CO suffocates its victims by reducing the amount of oxygen in the blood stream. If people continue to inhale CO, they face the risk of breathing difficulty, cardiac trauma, brain damage, coma, and even death.
Victims of CO poisoning experience flu-like symptoms including nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and breathing difficulty. Due to increased blood pressure, a victim's skin may take on a pink or red cast. The elderly, the fetus, and those with cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases are particularly sensitive to elevated CO levels.
Look for these danger signs in your home:
Another source of CO is car exhaust. It is important that the door between the house and garage be closed when car engines are running. Keep the garage door open to the outside air when the car or any gas-powered equipment is running. If you have a garage attached to the house, the safest precaution would be to let autos and gas-powered equipment idle outside the garage so that carbon monoxide fumes cannot seep into your home.
Since CO is a silent killer, having a CO detector is important. Most people killed by carbon monoxide poisoning die in their sleep. When buying a detector, look for the UL mark with the adjacent phrase, "Residential Carbon Monoxide Detector."
If the unit is a plug-in type, test it monthly. A battery-operated detector should have the batteries changed at least once a year. All units should be cleaned regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.
Contact your local U of I Extension office or visit these web sites:
University of Illinois Extension
Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homes