You could be inhaling this colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. It is difficult to detect – emitting from gas heating and cooking equipment, as well as stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, wood, charcoal, propane and more, and anyplace where ventilation is not adequate for the amount of combustion of organic matter.
Experts reveal that 59% of non-fire carbon monoxide related deaths occur between the months of November and February each year. And although 94% of homeowners are aware that their furnace can release deadly carbon monoxide gas, less than half, about 47%, take precautions to prevent this silent killer from being in their homes.
A survey questioned 1,000 homeowners in the U.S. and Canada about their knowledge of carbon monoxide. More than half were very concerned, but there were large gaps in their actual understanding of the subject.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes carbon monoxide as a leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in the U.S. This has caused approximately 15,000 emergency room visits and nearly 500 deaths annually. In an eight year span, 68,000 cases of non-fatal, but nevertheless harmful, carbon monoxide exposures were reported to poison centers.
What the Surveys Revealed
- Sixty-six percent of those interviewed did not even know how to recognize symptoms of CO poisoning! – Symptoms of poisoning include weakness, exhaustion, light-headedness, confusion, headaches, vertigo, and flu-like effects.
- Clothes dryers can be a source of carbon monoxide exposure. Is this something you were aware of? Fifty-three percent of those questioned were not, and another 25% did not know that the fireplace is another potential CO hazard. – Although carbon monoxide is roughly the same weight as air, it may be contained in warm air coming from combustion appliances such as home heating equipment. If this is the case, carbon monoxide will rise with the warmer air.
- Where is the best place in your home to install a carbon monoxide detector? More than half (54%) did not know the answer to this important fact. – If you are installing just one detector, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends it be located near your sleeping area. More than one unit should be placed on every level and in every bedroom of a home to provide adequate notification of exposure. Do not install units directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances.
- How many of those people questioned do you think get an annual furnace tune-up? More than half (54%) don’t take this simple step. – An inspection by a qualified technician could help identify and repair a potential leak before it becomes serious.
- When should a carbon monoxide detector be replaced? Forty-one percent say they never replace their carbon monoxide detector, or they aren’t sure how often it needs to be replaced. – Every few years is recommended, but see your unit instructions for the answer.
- About one-fifth (22.1 percent) have never run a test, or they say they don’t know how to test the detectors to be sure they are in working order. Only 20% replace the batteries every year — or not at all. – Manufacturers often will give recommendations on how often to change the batteries, but rule of thumb is don’t wait longer than once every year.
- An astonishing 34% of homeowners aren’t even sure if they have a carbon monoxide detector in their homes. – Since CO is colorless, tasteless and odorless (unlike smoke from a fire), detection and prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning in a home environment is impossible without such a warning device. In North America, some state, provincial and municipal governments require installation of CO detectors in new apartment units, and other residential buildings.
Recognizing CO Poisoning Symptoms
Exposure of 100 ppm or greater can be dangerous. Higher degrees can lead to significant damage to the central nervous system, heart and ultimately death. Long-term low-rate exposure can have effects on an unborn fetus, and cause depression, confusion and memory loss in most people. There have been cases where people have suffered low-level exposure due to the fact that the CO Alarm was set for a higher concentration. The low-level rate, and the length of time inhaling the carbon monoxide, determine the amount of brain damage caused.
CO poisoning is very common…people are not aware of how serious CO poisoning can be. Almost everyone we see who’s been exposed to CO is surprised to find out that it could be this devastating.” says Ramona Hopkins, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. “Victims of CO poisoning may suffer from brain damage resulting in memory loss and other cognitive impairments.”
After an acute exposure of college 131 dormitory residents to low levels of CO, subtle symptoms of poor concentration, language difficulty, problems with calculations, and memory loss were noted.
How is CO Poisoning Treated?
Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) is a specialized medical treatment in which the patient breathes 100 percent oxygen while inside a chamber set at increased atmospheric pressures.
Hennepin County Medical (HCMC) has been providing hyperbaric oxygen for patient care and research continuously since 1964. HCMC is one of a very small number of institutions in the US providing 24/7 availability of hyperbaric oxygen for emergency patients. In 2012 they installed a new state-of-the-art multiplace chamber and a monoplace chamber, to be better able to serve patients throughout Minnesota and neighboring communities.
Along with treating a multitude of other medical conditions, these are vital in helping patients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
The Best Prevention?
HVAC system inspections and tune-ups are crucial!
Your home or business needs the correct number of CO Detectors placed in strategic locations. Keeping them in working order by replacing the batteries at least once a year, and testing the workability of each unit is vital.
One of the mistakes many people make is to ignore the alarm, thinking the unit is malfunctioning. Never ignore an alarm. Take action. Call your local utility company, or dial 911 and explain your situation. Then evacuate everyone (including pets). When help arrives, they will use a special CO meter to test the air in all areas of your home and let you know if it is safe.
Turning to the Experts
Carbon Monoxide emissions don’t always occur in older furnaces. Even a new system can emit deadly gas if it isn’t installed correctly.
Have you had a furnace system inspection and tune-up? This is something we at ABEL can provide, and we promise fast, efficient professional service.
For more information or to schedule an inspection, give us a call at 952-472-COOL (2665) or Contact Us