Carbon Monoxide

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (sometimes referred to as CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning material containing carbon. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it; but carbon monoxide can kill you.

  • Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. This odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas is known as the “Silent Killer.” The Centers for Disease Control estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning claims nearly 500 lives, and causes more than 15,000 visits to hospital emergency departments annually.
  • Carbon monoxide is produced by common household appliances. When not properly ventilated, carbon monoxide emitted by these appliances can build up. See below for a list of appliances that can emit carbon monoxide.
  • Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue, are often mistaken for the flu because the deadly gas goes undetected in a home. Prolonged exposure can lead to brain damage and even death.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Exposure to carbon monoxide is most commonly accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Flu-like symptoms, fatigue
  • Shortness of breath on exertion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Visual changes
  • Fainting
  • Seizure
  • Memory and walking problems

Prevention

Your best protection is to install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home or boat as your first line of defense. According to the National Fire Protection Association some 93% of homes have smoke alarms, yet the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that only 15% have carbon monoxide alarms. A carbon monoxide monitor with an audible alarm works much like a home smoke alarm and beeps loudly when the sensors detect carbon monoxide.

  • If the alarm sounds, evacuate the building. People who have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should seek emergency medical care. Call the fire department or public service company to investigate.
  • Inspect your home for hazards.
    • Your home heating system, chimney, and flue must be inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician every year. Keep chimneys clear of bird and squirrel nests, leaves, and residue to ensure proper ventilation.
    • Be sure your furnace and other appliances, such as gas ovens, ranges, and cook tops, are inspected for adequate ventilation.
    • Do not burn charcoal inside your house (even in the fireplace). Have gas fireplaces inspected each fall to ensure the pilot light burns safely.
    • Do not operate gasoline-powered engines in confined areas such as garages or basements. Do not leave your car, mower, or other vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the door open.
    • Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges, and clothes dryers.
    • Become familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning and boating (please see Web Links section).

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Treatment-Self-Care at Home

Move all family members and pets to fresh air away from the source of carbon monoxide (CO).

  • No home therapy is available for carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • You must seek medical care in a hospital emergency department.

Information courtesy of  http://www.emedicinehealth.com