According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the US.
CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that’s produced whenever fossil fuels are burned. When you use common household appliances such as your gas stove, you create CO. But this only becomes a problem when you do not have proper ventilation in which CO can build up in your home to toxic levels. Other sources of carbon monoxide include leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-draft from fireplace, stoves, and furnaces, and automobile exhaust from garages that are attached to your house.
Exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to fatigue, headache, and chest pain for people who have heart disease. When a person is exposed to high levels of CO, red blood cells in the body absorbs the excess CO instead of oxygen. Acute (short-term) exposure can cause headache, dizziness, nausea, and impaired vision. However, chronic (long-term) exposure to high amounts of CO can cause vomiting, damage to tissues, and even sudden deaths.
- To protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning, install battery-operated CO detectors on each level of your home. Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring/fall. When you hear the alarm go off, immediately move outside to fresh air and call 911.Don’t try to find the source of carbon monoxide.
- Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be used to detect the presence of CO. Look for symptoms such as fatigue, headache, nausea, and dizziness which can indicate short-term exposures to low levels of CO.
- You can also purchase moderately-priced carbon monoxide measuring devices. This will tell you the amount of CO measured in parts per million (ppm) in your house. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) or CO is 9ppm for short-term exposure in a living space. CO becomes toxic when it reaches a level higher than 50 ppm with continuous exposure for over 8 hours.
- You can also connect with a professional inspector who will have the right equipment to test for carbon monoxide.
Here are some tips to reduce your exposure to carbon monoxide:
- Keep your appliances well-maintained and ventilated. Have a professional inspect burning appliances such as furnace, washers, dryers, water heaters, and stoves to detect CO leaks. Have a professional repair these leaks immediately. This Combustion Safety Test is included in a home energy audit. Sign up for an energy audit and see if you qualify for a free audit from your local utility company.
- Never use portable generators in your house. Portable generators are used to supply electricity temporarily and produce exhaust that contains carbon monoxide. When using these generators, keep them outside of your house and away from windows and vents.
- Use a vented space heater.
- Open the fireplace damper when using fireplace, and be careful of fan placement to avoid a backdraft.
- Use an exhaust fan over gas stoves.
- Don’t let the car run in the garage.
- Don’t barbecue in garage.