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What to Know About Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

Last updated on November 1, 2019 at 01:16 pm

It’s noxious, colorless, odorless and, without the proper safety equipment, it can saturate your home undetected. Here’s what you need to know about carbon monoxide in your home to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a gas that’s released when fuels are incompletely consumed during combustion. Those fuels include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Wood
  • Oil
  • Coal
  • Charcoal
  • Kerosene
  • Natural gas
  • Propane

Potential sources of carbon monoxide in homes include furnaces, fireplaces, portable generators, stoves and ranges, water heaters and some portable space heaters.

Why is it dangerous?

Normally, our lungs help supply our blood with oxygen, which in turn nourishes our tissues and organs. When we inhale carbon monoxide, our lungs replace that oxygen with the poisonous gas, starving the cells. In high doses and enclosed areas, carbon monoxide can be deadly. A total of 2,244 deaths resulted from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning between 2010 and 2015, according to the CDC. Many more are hospitalized after being exposed.

What symptoms does it cause?

Because carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, knowing the symptoms is important for ensuring you get out of your home and seek medical help as quickly as possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Blurry vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of consciousness

How can I tell if it’s in my home?

The best way to ensure your home is free of carbon monoxide is to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends placing detectors outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. Ideally, alarms will be wired to one another so if one alarm goes off, the others will be triggered as well. Alarms should be tested monthly to ensure they’re working properly.

What should I do if my detector alarm goes off?

If your detector goes off, you should leave your home immediately and move outdoors into the fresh air. Once you’re in a location with fresh air, call the fire department and medical personnel so you can be evaluated, if needed. Then arrange to have your home assessed to determine and correct the source of the gas leak.

How often should I check my detector’s batteries? 

It’s recommended you check the status of your detector on a monthly basis. Simply press the test button and wait for a loud chirp confirming your detector is active. Another way to ensure your detector’s batteries are at prime power is to change them every time Daylight Savings rolls around.

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