Carbon monoxide (CO2) is known as the silent killer because it is a hard to detect, invisible, odorless gas that is produced by burning wood, charcoal, natural gas, gasoline, propane, oil, methane, and other common fuels. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 400 deaths result each year from CO poisoning.
What is Carbon monoxide?
• CO is also produced by automobiles and other gasoline or diesel engines.
• CO enters the body, undetected, through your breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with the flu, food poisoning or other illness.
• High levels of CO can cause death within just a few minutes. A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
• Carbon monoxide alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of a smoke alarm and the sound of a CO alarm.
Install Carbon monoxide alarms in your home
• CO alarms can be battery-powered, plugged into an outlet, or hardwired into a home's electrical system. Buy only CO alarms that bear the label of an independent testing laboratory. Install a CO alarm outside your home's sleeping areas. If sleeping areas are spaced far apart, each area will need a CO alarm.
When you hear the sound of a CO alarm
• If the CO warning signal sounds, immediately go to a fresh air location and call 911. Stay at the fresh air location until emergency personnel tell you it is safe. If the trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries or other problems.
Reducing CO Risk
• When you are buying home heating or cooking equipment, purchase only products that bear the label of an independent testing laboratory. Have all fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, stoves, space heaters, dryers, and water heaters) professionally installed and maintained.
• If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle, generator, or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
• Never use an oven to heat your home. Make sure your wood or coal-burning stove is properly ventilated directly into the chimney flue. Be sure the chimney flue is fully open when you use your fireplace. Have all chimneys cleaned and inspected once a year.
• Have your fuel-burning home heating system (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood and coal stoves) - including the flue- inspected by a professional before each heating season.
• Keep dryer, stove, furnace, and fireplace vents clear of ice, snow, dirt, leaves, and other debris.
Recognizing the signs of CO poisoning
Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:
•Shortness of breath
High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:
•Loss of muscular coordination
•Loss of consciousness