What is Carbon Monoxide and Who is at risk?
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas. Because you can't see, taste, or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it is there.
- Some individuals are more vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning, including unborn babies, infants, children, seniors, and people with lung or heart problems. Smokers also face a higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Why is Carbon Monoxide so dangerous?
- Carbon Monoxide quickly displaces the oxygen in your blood that your organs need to function. When the gas is present in the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood, displacing the oxygen.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning is like a form of slow suffocation. At lower levels of exposure, carbon monoxide causes symptoms similar to the flu. These include headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability.
- As levels of carbon monoxide poisoning increase in the bloodstream, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and eventually brain damage or death can result.
- A small amount of carbon monoxide can poison you slowly over a long period of time; or a large amount can kill you immediately.
Sources of Carbon Monoxide in the home
- Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of any material containing carbon. This includes gasoline, natural gas, oil, propane, coal, or wood.
- The most common sources of exposure in the home include unvented gas oil home appliances.
- Automobile exhaust contains high levels of carbon monoxide that can seep into a house if a car is left running in an attached garage.
- During winter, when doors and windows tend to be closed, the potential for carbon monoxide buildup in the home increases.
- Cracked heat exchangers on furnaces, blocked chimneys or flues, and disconnected or blocked appliance vents can all allow carbon monoxide to reach the living areas of your home. Inadequate fresh air supply to a furnace increases the amount of carbon monoxide produced. Carbon monoxide then may be drawn from the furnace into living spaces when you turn on an exhaust fan or vented clothes dryer.
- Water heaters, space heaters, fireplaces, barbecue grills, and wood burning stoves also can contribute to carbon monoxide problems in the home.
Safeguard your Home
- Be sure that all appliances in your home are installed, maintained, and used properly.
- Never use an oven or range to heat the living areas of your home.
- Don't use a barbecue grill (charcoal or propane) indoors unless it was specifically built for indoor use.
- Use unvented gas or kerosene space heaters only in well-ventilated rooms. Never use heaters overnight or in a room where some one is sleeping.
- Have qualified service technicians service your home's central and room-heating appliances, gas water heaters, and gas dryers annually.
- Check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, and loose connections.
What type of Carbon Monoxide alarm is right for my home?
- An electric-powered model with battery back-up is recommended for ultimate safety. It can be purchased at most home improvement stores.
- Test your alarms at least once each month according to the manufacturer's instructions. Check with the manufacturer to make sure your detector isn't on the recall list. If it is, stop using it and replace it with a new device.
- Most detectors should be replaced every 2 to 5 years.
- All CO detectors should meet the requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard 2034.
Where to install alarms
- A carbon monoxide alarm should be installed on each level of your home and near all sleeping areas. Additional alarms on each level of the house will provide extra protection.
- Carbon monoxide alarms will be effective whether placed at floor or ceiling level, or anywhere in between, with the following exceptions:
- Install alarms at least 15 feet from any combustion appliance, such as a gas or oil furnace, oven, water heater, etc.
- Do not install an alarm in the garage, in areas of high humidity, or where it will be exposed to strong chemicals solvents or cleaners.
- If you have a plug-in alarm, do not install it in an outlet controlled by a light switch or dimmer, or in an area where it can be easily knocked off the wall.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
- Carbon Monoxide alarms measure the amount of carbon monoxide and time of exposure. Most do not go off at the immediate detection of carbon monoxide. They sound an alarm when they sense a certain saturation level of gas.
- It is possible that symptoms will not be present when you hear the alarm. This does not mean there is not carbon monoxide present.
Do not ignore an alarm if it goes off!!!
When the alarm sounds
- If any member of your household is feeling sick:
- Leave the building immediately and call 911 or the fire department.
- Do not re-enter the building until the fire department says it is okay.
- Have the problem corrected as soon as the source is pinpointed.
- If no one is feeling ill:
- Press the test/silence button on the alarm.
- Turn off all appliances or other sources of combustion at once.
- Open doors and windows to allow fresh air into the house.
- Call a qualified technician to correct the problem.