We all worry about protecting our loved ones from danger and as a parent when you tuck your little one into bed at night you feel that they are “safe and sound”. However, we frequently forget about the silent killer that could already be on the loose in our home. Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called “The Silent Killer” or “The Invisible Killer” because it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that claims hundreds of lives and sends over 50,000 poisoning victims a year to emergency rooms.
Like any other danger in order to try and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning it is vital to be aware of the causes and effects of this deadly gas. Only then can you take the necessary steps to safeguard yourself and your loved ones against the deadly dangers of CO. Common sources of carbon monoxide in a home include:
Furnace (natural gas, propane, oil, wood)
Fireplace (gas, wood, coal)
Stove (gas, wood)
Dryer (gas only)
Barbeque (gas, charcoal)
Gasoline/petrol powered garden tools
Generator (gasoline, diesel, propane)
You also need to know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels of CO can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.
If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning get fresh air immediately. Open all doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house. Do a head count to make sure all people and pets are out of the building. Next go to an emergency room and tell the physician that you suspect CO poisoning. It can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.
Some tips and precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning are:
1. Have all fuel-burning appliances checked regularly and by a trained and certified professional.
2. Check chimney flues and vents regularly for any blockages
3. Install at least one smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm on every level of your home and near bedrooms. The alarm should meet the latest Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety standard and comply with local regulations for placement in the home.
4. Never use generators indoors or in crawl spaces.
5. Use proper fuel in space heaters and use them in well-ventilated areas.
6. Do not use a gas stove or oven to heat your home
7. Don’t burn charcoal or use a grill indoors.
8. Don’t use paint remover that has methylene chloride in it, especially when children are around. (Methylene chloride converts to carbon monoxide in the body.)
9. Do not leave the car engine running in the garage, as this can build up fumes very quickly, which can in turn seep through door cracks and in to the home.
10. Do not use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chainsaws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.
Overall, it is very important for everyone to play their part in the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning. By training and educating yourself and your family members, and ensuring that precautions and safety measures are taken you could help to prevent this silent killer from damaging or killing you or your loved ones.