Follow Dos, Don’ts to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, hundreds of people die accidentally every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from carbon monoxide produced by idling cars.
Detecting carbon monoxide is nearly impossible because you can’t see or smell it, but at high levels, carbon monoxide can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. If fuel-burning appliances are maintained and used properly, the amount of carbon monoxide produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result.
Be safe. Follow the EPA’s advice and practice the DO’s and DON’Ts of carbon monoxide.
- Do have your fuel-burning appliances — including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves — inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected in good condition, and not blocked.
- Do choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed and maintain them according to manufacturers’ instructions.
- Do read and follow all of the instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel-burning.
- Do call EPA’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) INFO Clearinghouse at 1 (800) 438-4318 or the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1 (800) 638-2772 for more information on how to reduce your risks from carbon monoxide and other combustion gases and particles.
- Don’t idle the car in a garage even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
- Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
- Don’t ever use a charcoal grill indoors — even in a fireplace.
- Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
- Don’t use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.
- Don’t ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors are widely available in stores, and you may want to consider buying one as a back-up — but not as a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. Don’t let buying a carbon monoxide detector lull you into a false sense of security. Preventing carbon monoxide from becoming a problem in your home is better than relying on an alarm. Instead, follow the checklist of DO’s and DON’Ts.
If you shop for a carbon monoxide detector, the EPA suggests you do some research on features and don’t select solely on the basis of cost. Non-governmental organizations such as Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports), the American Gas Association, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) can help you
Carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions for its placement, use, and maintenance.
The cooperative offers safety programs, demonstrations and event speakers for electricity-related topics. Interested? Contact the cooperative at 672-6111 or toll-free 1-800-922-3486 for details. make an informed decision. Look for UL certification on any detector you purchase.
Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time.
Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea and mild headaches, and may have long-term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning or other illnesses, you may not consider carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause.
If you experience symptoms you think could be from carbon monoxide poisoning:
GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM and tell the physician you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. If carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test soon after exposure.