Can Be Deadly
You can't see or smell carbon monoxide,
but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon
monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas,
oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances
that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount
of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances
are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous
levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally
every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or
improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from
CO produced by idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people,
and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory
disease can be especially susceptible. Be safe. Practice
the DO's and DON'Ts of carbon monoxide.
CO Poisoning Symptoms
Know the symptoms of CO 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 longer-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 think that CO
poisoning could be the cause.
Play it Safe
If you experience symptoms that you think
could be from CO poisoning:
GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY. Open doors and windows,
turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
* DO GO TO AN
EMERGENCY ROOM and tell the physician you suspect
CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often
be diagnosed by. a blood test done soon after exposure.
* DO Be
prepared to answer the following questions for the doctor:
Do your symptoms occur only in the
house? Do they disappear or decrease when you leave home
and reappear when you return?
* Is anyone else in your household complaining
of similar symptoms?
* Did everyone's symptoms appear about the
same time? o Are you using any fuel-burning appliances in
* Has anyone inspected your appliances lately?
Are you certain they are working properly?
the Key to Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
* 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
* DO read and follow all of
the instructions that accompanies 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 IAQINFO Clearinghouse
(1-800-438-4318) or the Consumer Product Safety Commission
(1-800-638-2772) for more information on how to reduce
your risks from CO 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. A Few Words
About CO 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. However, it is important
for you to know that the technology of CO detectors is still
developing, that there are several types on the market,
and that they are not generally considered to be as reliable
as the smoke detectors found in homes today. Some CO detectors
have been laboratory-tested, and their performance varied.
Some performed well, others failed to alarm even at very
high CO levels, and still others alarmed even at very low
levels that don't pose any immediate health risk. And unlike
a smoke detector. Where you can easily confirm the cause
of the alarm, CO is invisible and odorless, so it's harder
to tell if an alarm is false or a real emergency.
So what's a consumer
First, don't let buying a
CO detector lull you into a false sense of security. Preventing
CO from becoming a problem in your home is better than relying
on an alarm. Follow the checklist of DOs and DON'Ts.
Second, if you shop for a
CO detector, do some research on features and don't select
solely on the basis of cost. Nongovernmental organizations
such as Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports),
the American Gas Association, and Underwriters Laboratories
(UL) can help you make an informed decision. Look for UL
certification on any detector you purchase.
Carefully follow manufacturers' instructions
for its placement, use, and maintenance.
If the CO detector
alarm goes off:
* Make sure it is your CO detector and not
your smoke detector.
* Check to see if any member of the household
is experiencing symptoms of poisoning.
* If they are, get them out of the house
immediately and seek medical attention. Tell the doctor
that you suspect CO poisoning.
* If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate
the home with fresh air, turn off all potential sources
of CO - your oil or gas furnace, gas water heater, gas range
and oven, gas dryer, gas or kerosene space heater and any
vehicle or small engine.
* Have a qualified technician inspect your
fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are
operating correctly and that there is nothing blocking the
fumes from being vented out of the house.