You probably have several carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home. Chances are, you might not even notice them unless they start chirping to alert you to a low battery. Even as the low battery chirping may annoy you, know that those carbon monoxide detectors can save your life and the life of your family. Carbon monoxide is dangerous, but knowledge and action can save lives.
Quite simply, carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless flammable and poisonous gas formed by the incomplete combustion of carbon. It can be fatal, and is especially dangerous because people typically do not know poisoning is occurring.
Carbon monoxide typically comes from any fuel that is burning. In Colorado, this is most often gas, natural gas or wood, but it can also be coal or oil. Carbon monoxide fumes build up any time fuel is being burned, and the danger to people occurs when the buildup is in a closed environment. This can happen in a home or a vehicle or a tent. Gas stoves, camp stoves, fireplaces, lanterns, grills, furnaces, and engines can all cause carbon monoxide to build up.
Carbon monoxide becomes dangerous when there’s nowhere for it to vent. Using camp stoves in a closed environment like a tent can be dangerous. Heating your home with a gas range or oven is a risk, as is any gas appliance that is vented improperly.
A chimney or fireplace that is stopped up with debris, or has any sort of small leak, poses a hazard. Using a generator inside – often to try and save money on heating bills – poses a large risk for CO buildup in a home. Using charcoal or any sort of outdoor grill inside can be dangerous. Running a vehicle in a garage attached to the home, possibly to warm it up on a cold day, can cause CO levels to rise quickly inside the house.
Know the symptoms
Carbon monoxide’s lack of odor, color, and taste is part of why it is so deadly. Often called a silent killer, carbon monoxide gives no warning as it seeps into your home. You may not smell it or taste it, but there are some telltale symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
People with carbon monoxide poisoning often feel like they are developing the flu. Having flu-like symptoms that ease and intensify throughout the day can be a sign that CO poisoning might be occurring- a real virus sticks with you while CO poisoning signs may ease when you leave the unsafe environment and then get worse when you unknowingly return.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include:
- increased heart rate
- low blood pressure
- stomach upset
If you suspect that you or your family may have CO poisoning, get out of your house immediately, and do not waste valuable time to gather belongings or try to figure it out yourself. Call 911, and let them know that you believe you may have carbon monoxide in your home. Let the firefighters or emergency responders determine if you need to go to the hospital. Follow up with your physician, to make sure that no long-term physical damage has occurred. Do not return to your home until it is determined to be safe and free of carbon monoxide.
Please stay tuned for part two of our carbon monoxide safety series next week!