What is carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, or “CO,” is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gas, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. Improperly ventilated appliances and engines, particularly in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, may allow carbon monoxide to accumulate to dangerous levels.
Since CO has no odor, color or taste, it cannot be detected by our senses. This means that dangerous concentrations of the gas can build up indoors and humans have no way to detect the problem until they become ill. Furthermore, when people become sick the symptoms are similar to the flu, which can cause victims to ignore the early signs of CO poisoning. The Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 500 people die from unintentional CO exposure in the United States every year. In addition, the CDC also estimates that 8,000 to 15,000 people each year are examined or treated in hospitals for non-fire related CO poisoning. The good news is that carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented with simple actions such installing a CO alarm and maintaining fuel burning appliances.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:
- Dull headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated. People may have irreversible brain damage or even be killed before anyone realizes there’s a problem.
Carbon Monoxide Sources in the Home
In simple terms, CO is produced whenever a material burns. Homes with fuel-burning appliances or attached garages are more likely to have CO problems Common sources of CO in our homes include fuel-burning appliances and devices such as:
- Furnaces or boilers
- Gas stoves and ovens
- Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning
- Gas Water heaters
- Gas Clothes dryers
- Wood stoves
- Motor vehicles
- Power tools and lawn equipment
- Grills (a charcoal grill used in an enclosed space can easily become a deadly source of CO)
Items such as camp stoves, charcoal grills, fuel-burning lanterns and generators should never be used inside a tent, RV or home.
What is a Carbon Monoxide detector?
A carbon monoxide detector or CO detector is a device that detects the presence of the carbon monoxide (CO) gas and is designed to alert you to possible carbon monoxide poisoning. They may be similar in size and shape to a smoke alarm.
Where should I place a carbon monoxide detector?
Per the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in a few different locations:
- Outside the doors of sleeping areas
- On each level of your home
- Anywhere else required by local laws
CO alarms do not last forever. The detecting components will lose their effectiveness after 5 to 7 years and may no longer detect carbon monoxide.
Remember, even though most CO poisonings occur during the winter, CO poisoning is possible all year. Test your CO detector monthly, and change the battery (if so equipped) when you change your smoke alarm batteries.
Not sure about your CO detector? Our firefighters will come to your home and do a courtesy inspection. Simply call the station at 252-441-6234 to schedule a visit.