Spring is the time to change our clock and get ready for the new baseball season, especially here in St. Louis and St. Charles! And it is also time to think about, and build awareness of, the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. I came across a good article about this that I have included below. As you are thinking about buying or selling a home, please think about protecting your family from the hidden hazard of carbon monoxide.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, tasteless poisonous gas. When inhaled, it readily enters the bloodstream ultimately depriving the heart and brain of oxygen. Signs of CO poisoning include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion and irritability. At lower levels of exposure, CO poison is often mistaken for the flu.
Who is at Risk?
Everyone is at risk, but the effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. Infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are especially susceptible to CO poisoning.
Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
CO is a by-product of the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels such as natural or liquefied petroleum (LP) gas, kerosene, oil, gasoline, wood and coal. Sources of CO in the home include heating systems, kitchen ranges and ovens, clothes dryers, water heaters, fireplaces and stoves. Other possible sources include motor vehicles, gas-powered tools and generators, and charcoal grills.
If the burners on heating systems and other equipment are properly adjusted and maintained, adequate air for combustion is provided, and the venting system is working properly, the likelihood of CO is reduced. But if burners are poorly adjusted, there is no combustion air, and/or the venting is faulty, lethal CO levels can develop, especially in a tightly-sealed house.
A car or other motor vehicle should not be started up in a closed garage; but even with the door open there may be enough residual CO to seep into the house. Cooking with a gas range/oven also contributes to indoor CO levels. Ideally, external venting should be provided for the range to minimize the chance of a build-up of carbon monoxide.
Reducing the Hazard
To minimize CO concerns, all fuel-burning systems and venting provisions should be checked annually by a qualified professional, particularly when there are signs of system damage or other potential concerns,. It is also generally recommended that at least one CO alarm be installed in homes with fuel-burning appliances, fireplaces or attached garages. Specific placement guidelines vary, but sleeping areas are the first locations to consider. Additional units can be located in other areas for added protection.
CO DetectorWhen purchasing a CO alarm, look for an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing on the label. Follow manufacturer installation and maintenance guidelines. Replace batteries at least annually and replace older units, as recommended by the manufacturer (typically when 5 to 7 years old). Also, when considering CO detector placement, don’t forget the need for regular testing of smoke/fire detectors and fire extinguishers.
What to Do if a Carbon Monoxide Detector/Alarm Goes Off?
Never ignore a sounding CO alarm. A CO alarm may indicate elevated levels of CO in the home, even if no one is experiencing symptoms. What needs to be done when an alarm sounds depends on whether or not anyone is feeling ill or obvious signs of a carbon monoxide source are present.
If no one is feeling ill:
- Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (e.g., furnaces and fireplaces).
- Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
- Reset the alarm.
- Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup before starting up any CO producing equipment.
- Realize that the source of CO may be outside your house or apartment.
If illness is a factor or an alarm continues after possible sources of CO have been turned off:
- Evacuate all occupants immediately.
- Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number and when relaying information, include the number of people feeling ill.
- Do not allow anyone to re-enter the home until it has been checked for CO or other hazards.
- Call a qualified professional to repair or correct the source of the CO or other cause of the alarm.
Originally posted at https://enewsletter.housemaster.com/documents/article4_3_2011.html