Jaws had most of us a bit hesitant to go in the water. When a thunderstorm rolls through, we’re wary of lightning strikes. But carbon monoxide kills nearly three times more people in the United States every year than both of those things combined, and hospitalizes tens of thousands more. We bring this up not to scare you, but as a warning. The good news is, carbon monoxide protection can prevent injury and death from carbon monoxide poisoning.
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Sources of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning fuel sources, with “dirtier” incomplete burns being a particular culprit. Invisible and odorless, it builds up in the bloodstream, binding to hemoglobin more effectively than oxygen. In high enough concentrations, it can lead to injury and death.
Carbon monoxide can have many sources, including car exhaust, furnaces, kerosene heaters, gas generators, stoves, ovens, water heaters, fireplaces, and pretty much anything else that burns a fuel source in order to run or heat. It’s especially prevalent in colder weather, since we’re relying more on home heating and generally keeping our homes shut tighter against the elements, limiting ventilation.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
At low levels and for short periods of time — the kind of exposure you’d get from smoking a cigarette or walking past a running car, for instance — carbon monoxide isn’t doing you any favors, but it won’t kill you. With prolonged exposure or in higher concentrations, however, you’ll notice signs of trouble:
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or disorientation
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
Loss of consciousness, or death, can also occur with prolonged exposure. If you notice these symptoms — especially in multiples — don’t second-guess. Get out, and get medical attention immediately.
Your CO (carbon monoxide) Detector Goes Off, Now What?
Keep your family safe in the Boston Metro area by following these steps after your carbon monoxide detector goes off.
- The first step, just like you’d do with a gas leak or house fire, is to get yourself, your kids, and your pets outside in the fresh air — the sooner the better.
- If anyone shows signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 immediately. (In cases of minimal exposure, you may be put on an oxygen mask for a short period of time.)
- In more severe cases, you may spend time in a hyperbaric chamber that uses oxygen under high atmospheric pressure to protect and re-oxygenate vital organs.
How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning & Exposure
The steps you can take to protect yourself and your family are simple.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
Install a carbon monoxide detector, and test it frequently to make sure it’s in working order. Batteries may need to be changed, and detectors changed periodically, since each expires; hang onto, and consult, the owner’s manual. As a rule of thumb, a CO detector that has replaceable batteries should have them changed twice a year; if you do this the same day you change the clocks for Daylight Saving Time, it’s easy to remember, and there’s nothing wrong with changing batteries early or more often.
Address CO at the Source
Now that you know the sources of carbon monoxide in your home, address them. Steps you can take include:
- Keeping flues and vents clean and unobstructed
- Only warming up your car outdoors, not in an enclosed garage
- Not using space heaters that rely on combustible fuel
- Not using your stove or oven as a supplemental heating source
- Keeping fireplaces and flues clean, and only burning fuel that’s dry and properly cured
- Not using gas or charcoal grills indoors
- Never using generators indoors in the event of a power outage
- Keeping gas-burning stoves in good working order
- Servicing your furnace and water heater on a regular basis to ensure they run clean
- Switching to an electrical ductless split system, especially to condition smaller spaces
At Addario’s Services, we love and appreciate our customers. We look forward to serving each of you for many years to come, so we want you to be not only comfortable, but also safe, in your homes. So take the steps you need to take to protect your home and your family, and remember that we’re always here to help with your heating and cooling needs!