July - Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon Monoxide does kill people! It is estimated that between 500 and 1000 people die each year in the USA from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. In most cases CO-related deaths usually result from the inappropriate use of indoor heaters or heaters that are improperly vented. It is colorless and odorless and a by-product of internal combustion. Some CO is always produced when we burn carbon-based fuels like wood, natural gas, propane gas, gasoline, charcoal, or reconstituted wood logs.
Carbon monoxide interferes with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen to body organs and can result in death at even very low levels. Because it is colorless and odorless, it is impossible to detect without instruments.
SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
Low levels of CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms, food poisoning or other illnesses and can have long-term health risks if left unattended. The following are some symptoms of:
LOW LEVEL CO POISONING
- Shortness of breath
- Mild nausea
- Mild headaches
MODERATE LEVEL CO POISONING
Immediate treatment options to help those with CO poisoning:
- Get the victim into fresh air immediately.
- Attempt to clear the house or building of all people and open all doors and windows. Turn off all combustion appliances to clear the air.
- Take the occupants to a hospital or clinic for a blood test to determine if CO poisoning has occurred.
EFFECTS OF CARBON MONIXIDE POISONING
As stated in the beginning, CO can and does kill people with little or no warning! Effects depend upon the amount of and length of time of exposure. It can last for days, weeks, and months, or even years. Age and health of the individual are also factors.
- Physical effects – headaches, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, chronic fatigue, tingling, vertigo.
- Memory impairments – attention problems, multi-tasking problems, work finding and memory problems, verbal and/or visibility deficits.
- Emotional/personality effects – irritability, anxiety, lack of motivation, sleep disturbances.
- Sensory/Motor disorders – blurry and/or double vision, buzzing in the ears, decreased eating and swallowing disorders.
- Gross neurological disorders – seizures, inability to speak, balance problems tremors.
AVOID CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
- Have a qualified technician install and regularly inspect all fuel burning appliances.
- Inspect fireplaces and chimneys to insure proper ventilation.
- Don’t use gas or charcoal grills indoors or in poorly vented areas—a “no-brainer”, but this does happen.
- Don’t start a lawnmower, snow blower or a car in an enclosed garage.
- Spend a few dollars and purchase CO detectors for your home and other buildings occupied with inhabitants.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES TO AVOID CO POISONING
- Have flues and chimneys checked for blockages.
- At the start of each fall, have a technician check all fuel-burning appliances.
- All installations and maintenance should be in accordance to the manufacturers’ recommendations.
- Don’t ever let a car or other gas-fueled vehicle idle inside an enclosed garage or building.
- Don’t sleep in a room with fuel-burning appliances unless the area is well ventilated, or use a gas oven to heat a room.
- Purchase CO detectors for areas of your home, camper, or motor home and install them. Many are purchased and left sitting on a workbench or hanging on toolboxes.
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
CO detectors can be purchased at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-mart, K-Mart, etc. They are relatively inexpensive, but compared to the residual effects, the cost is really cheap. They should be installed in any area of the home, shop, or garage where fuel or fossil fuel will be used for heating. The batteries should be checked and changed annually. Use the same protocol for CO detectors as you do for smoke detectors.
We check them when the time changes back to CST from DST or sooner if the alarm goes off. The manufacturers’ instructions are to check them monthly. The cost of home units vary with the type and make; but they start at around $10 dollars and go up to $300, depending how high tech you feel that you need to be. Whichever device you decide upon, make sure that it is approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). It is recommended that the units be replaced about every two years.
SOMETIMES DANGER DOESN’T SMELL!
BE ALERT----BE ALIVE!
Ted Gordon is the Risk Management/Loss Control Manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. His office is located in the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, in Verona, MS. His telephone number is 662-566-2201.