Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that each year more than 500 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
When CO is breathed in by an individual, it accumulates in the blood and forms a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the bloodstream to cells and tissues. Carbon monoxide attaches itself to hemoglobin and displaces the oxygen that the body organs need.
Carboxyhemoglobin can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. Later stages of CO poisoning can cause vomiting, loss of consciousness and eventually brain damage or death.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion of fossil fuels. Fumes from automobiles contain high levels of CO. Appliances such as furnaces, space heaters, clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, water heaters, charcoal grills, fireplaces and wood burning stoves produce CO. Carbon monoxide usually is vented to the outside if appliances function correctly and the home is vented properly. Problems occur when furnace heat exchanger crack or vents and chimneys become blocked. Insulation sometimes can trap CO in the home.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Portsmouth Fire Department recommend installing at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near the bedrooms. If a home has more than one story, a detector should be placed on each story. Be sure the detector has a testing laboratory label.
To further reduce the chances of you or a loved one being overcome by carbon monoxide follow these preventive tips:
- Never heat your home with a gas stove / gas range.
- Never use a charcoal or gas grill in your home.
- Never use any gas powered machine in your home, basement, or garage.
- Make sure that all fuel burning appliances are properly installed and maintained by a certified technician.
- Never use a gas powered machine by an open window (fumes can seep into the home).
- Always clear motor vehicle exhaust pipes in the winter before operating the engine.
- Make sure that fireplaces, chimneys, and flues are checked and cleaned every year.
- Never sit in a car or leave it running in a closed garage.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and check them regularly to make sure the battery is working.
In the event you become ill from carbon monoxide poisoning move yourself to fresh air and call 9-1-1. Follow the instructions from the operator and await the help of a trained medical professional.
By planning ahead, you can do a lot to prevent a fire. But, once a fire starts in your home, there are only three things to do: get everyone out of the house, close the door behind you, then, call 9-1-1 from a neighbor's home. Don't go back into a burning building, no matter what. If you thinks someone is trapped inside, tell the firefighters when they arrive.