The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
As a homeowner or a tenant, it’s highly likely that you’re well aware of all the catastrophes that could affect you and your family. Ranging from tornadoes to floods and even earthquakes, it’s likely that you’ve already got a plan in place to get your family to safety in case of an emergency. While ensuring that you’ve protected your loved ones against carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely important, it is often a hazard that is overlooked. If the alarms fail to go off, especially when the household is all asleep, there is a very good chance that your loved ones could become injured or even lose their lives.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that is found in combustion fumes. There are a number of sources for carbon monoxide, or CO, fumes, including:
- Vehicle engines
- Heating systems
- Burning wood
- Gas ranges
Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?
The body needs oxygen to survive. However, human and animal red blood cells will pickup CO instead of oxygen if there is enough CO in a specific amount of space. Since the red blood cells are full of CO molecules, they block out the oxygen molecules. Brain cell death begins when the brain is devoid of oxygen for approximately five minutes; if a person is not resuscitated or given oxygen in a timely manner, they may potentially suffer brain damage or could even die. While every human and animal can succumb to CO poisoning, infants and people who suffer from chronic breathing problems may be the first to show symptoms of CO poisonings. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also at greater risk.
Protection against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
The best way to protect against CO poisoning is to install CO detectors. These detectors should be placed near bedrooms and near sources of CO fumes. It is recommended that tenants and homeowners use detectors that either are battery operated or use batteries for backup in the event that the power goes out. The batteries should be checked monthly and be replaced at least once a year.
There are additional ways to reduce the risk of CO poisonings. These include:
- If your HVAC systems use gas, oil or coal, they should be maintained by a qualified and trusted technician at least once a year
- Have the refrigerator’s cooling unit serviced should you smell any odor, as the unit could be releasing CO
- Never start or run a vehicle in a closed garage, as the fumes could buildup to dangerous levels
- Ensure that the chimney is properly cleaned every year
Ultimately, keeping up with any and all HVAC systems and being on the lookout for any curious odors can keep tenants and homeowners safe. If the appliances that are known to release CO are in use, ensure that there is adequate ventilation.
Symptoms of CO Poisoning
Even you keep all of your appliances and HVAC systems properly maintained, it is always recommended to know what the symptoms of CO poisonings are. In general, someone who is breathing in too much CO will start to suffer nausea, vomiting and confusion. Additionally, they may suffer chest pain, headaches and general weakness. If a family member begins to exhibit these symptoms, they should be taken to the hospital immediately. Additionally, everyone should leave the apartment or home to avoid suffering from CO poisoning themselves. Opening a window and ventilating the home may help until the local fire department can be called for assistance.