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Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer

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Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home? Odds are good you have a smoke detector, but a carbon monoxide detector is just as important.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health, “Every year, at least 420 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning. More than 100,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning” (Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention, 2023).

What is carbon monoxide and what produces it?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, highly toxic gas or liquid that is undetectable to the human senses. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sources can include:

  • Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • Leaking chimneys and furnaces
  • Back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces
  • Gas stoves
  • Generators and other gasoline powered equipment
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages
  • Tobacco smoke
  • If the chimney flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected or is leaking.

(What is carbon monoxide, 2022)

What should you do?

  • Install CO detectors, especially near areas most likely to experience exposure, such as the chimney, garage, gas appliances or heaters, etc.
  • Schedule an appointment annually for a technician to inspect your CO detectors.
  • Cover your bases by installing a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector and replace the battery when you change your clocks each spring/fall.

What you should NOT do:

  • Never leave a car running in your garage, even if you leave the garage door open.
  • Don’t be tempted to leave your gas oven door open to heat your house.
  • If you’re using any of the following items in your home, basement or garage, you must vent them: generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device.

CO Poisoning Symptoms:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • A headache or blurred vision
  • Feeling weak or drowsy
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chest pains or shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Loss of muscle control or consciousness

If you experience a combination of these symptoms and fear carbon monoxide poisoning, get to fresh air and seek medical attention right away.

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