Every year, about 430 people die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the US. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a deadly gas that can kill people before they even know it’s there. What is CO poisoning, what are the signs of carbon monoxide in homes, and is it preventable?
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: What is it?
You’ve probably heard about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, but what is it, and why is it so dangerous? Simply put, carbon monoxide is a gas that is produced when fuel is burned. If inhaled in large amounts, it can be fatal. The most dangerous part of carbon monoxide is that it is colorless and odorless, which means that it often goes undetected until symptoms appear. These initial symptoms, often confused with the flu, include:
- Dizziness or headaches
The severity of these symptoms depends on the amount of gas in the air and the length of time spent in the poisoned environment. They progress quickly into more severe symptoms such as vomiting and unconsciousness, and can lead to death.
Because it is a by-product of fuel burning, carbon monoxide can be found in many places in the home, such as gas stoves, fireplaces, and water heaters. This is typically not a problem in a well-ventilated home, but if airways are blocked the contaminated air may stay in the home. The gas may also enter the house if a car or lawnmower is left running in a closed garage.
Signs of Carbon Monoxide in Homes
Carbon monoxide’s lack of color and odor makes it very dangerous. After all, how can you detect something you can’t see or smell? Every home should have working carbon monoxide detectors. These are small devices similar to smoke detectors which measure the amount of CO in the air and sound an alarm when it gets too high. These devices save lives by letting residents know when it becomes dangerous to stay in the home.
While these devices are a necessary part of any home, it is important to remember that machines aren’t perfect. Keep an eye out for other warning signs, such as machines that appear to be malfunctioning, a burning scent that may be coming from your appliances, or a blockage in air vents. Most importantly, if you or your family members begin to experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, even if the detectors have not sounded the alarm, it’s time to get out of the house and seek medical attention.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Knowing the signs of carbon monoxide in homes is vital, but it is also important to do carbon monoxide prevention work. Know the areas of your home that pose a CO threat, and be sure to maintain them properly. Have your furnace inspected yearly, always check that you are using the correct fuel types in heaters or stoves, and never use gas-powered machines indoors or start your car in a closed garage.
Your home needs to be properly maintained in order to keep your family safe and comfortable. Does your home need some help? Get a no-cost home energy audit from Energy Monster. An energy technician will come to inspect your home for areas of inefficiency and will help you come up with a custom home plan, including air sealing and other home improvement or maintenance projects. Your home will be safer, more comfortable, and more energy efficient.