Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. It kills about 500 people each year - not including deaths from fire or intentional exposure. High levels of CO can kill in a matter of minutes; moderate levels can cause permanent neurological problems. Sadly, most people are not even aware that they are being exposed to CO until it is too late.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is produced when fuel is burned. Natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood, coal, and charcoal all produce CO. When appliances that burn these fuels are maintained and working properly, they will not produce hazardous levels of CO. However, problems can arise if the appliances are not working properly, are not maintained, or are used incorrectly.
Preventing CO poisoning is as simple as following a few basic rules. Make sure you have your heating system inspected and serviced annually. Do not forget to check chimneys, flues and vents for blockage, corrosion, loose connections or disconnections. Never run your car inside an attached garage even if you have the garage door open. Do not use gasoline-powered engines, fuel-burning camping equipment, or charcoal grills inside a home, garage, or tent. Never use a gas appliance to heat your home, and never operate a fuel-burning heater in an unvented room or while you are sleeping.
Added Protection with a CO Detector
Finally, the number one protection against CO poisoning is installing a carbon monoxide detector or alarm in your home. Carbon monoxide detectors are relatively inexpensive - about $35 to $45.
It is important to have a detector for every level of your home, with at least one placed in any hallway near sleeping areas. They will work best when they are placed near the ceiling, but this is not required. Additionally, you may want to place a detector near any major gas burning appliances, but they should be placed within five feet of them or near cooking and bathing areas.
Do not confuse carbon monoxide detectors with CO fire detectors, which are electronic detectors sound against a fire by sensing CO levels in the air. These fire detectors are not designed to protect people from carbon monoxide poisoning. However, there are detectors that can do both. They usually cost about $5 to $10 more and are labeled as a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
For even more protection, consider getting a combination carbon monoxide and combustible gas detector (also called carbon monoxide and explosive gas detectors). These detect CO along with natural gas, methane, and propane.
Read on to learn more about purchasing a CO detector.
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