Carbon Monoxide Safety
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends installing at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near each bedroom. If a home has more than one story, at least one detector should be placed on each story. Be sure the detector has a testing laboratory label.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, deadly gas. It can kill before it is detected. At low levels of exposure, it can cause health problems.
Fetuses, infants, children, senior citizens and those with heart or lung problems may be especially vulnerable to CO poisoning. When CO is inhaled, it accumulates in the blood and forms a toxic compound (known as carboxyhemoglobin). 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.
When fossil fuels burn, carbon monoxide is a by-product
- Fumes from automobiles contain high levels of carbon monoxide.
- Appliances such as furnaces, space heaters, clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, water heaters, charcoal grills, fireplaces and wood burning stoves produce carbon monoxide.
- When appliances are functioning correctly and the home is vented properly carbon monoxide is vented to the outside.
- Problems occur when the furnace heat exchanger cracks or vents and chimneys become blocked. Insulation can also trap carbon monoxide in the home.
Carboxyhemoglobin can cause:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Confusion and irritability.
Signs of late stage CO poisoning:
- Loss of consciousness
- Brain damage or death
The presence of carbon monoxide cannot be sensed. Check all other appliances in the home that use flammable fuels such as natural gas, oil, propane, wood or kerosene.
- Appliances include water heaters, clothes dryers, kitchen ranges, ovens or cooktops, wood burning stoves, and gas refrigerators. Pilot lights can be a source of CO because the by-products of combustion are released inside the home rather than vented outside.
- Be sure space heaters are vented properly. Unvented space heaters that use a flammable fuel such as kerosene can release carbon monoxide into the home.
- Barbecue grills should never be operated indoors under any circumstances nor should stove tops or ovens that operate on flammable fuels be used to heat a residence.
- Check fireplaces for closed, blocked or bent flues, soot and debris.
- Check the clothes dryer vent opening outside the house for lint.