Carbon Monoxide Symptoms, Prevention & Alarms

Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can be deadly if inhaled in large quantities. Carbon monoxide is a chemical compound consisting of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, combining to create CO. Not to be confused with carbon dioxide which is produced by humans and all aerobic organisms, carbon monoxide is produced by fuel-burning sources such as gas stoves, gas ranges, wood-burning stoves, wood-burning fireplaces, charcoal grills and propane barbecues, gas furnaces, oil furnaces, and any other appliances, machine or device that burns fuel like gas, oil, coal, propane, or wood.

coal burning outdoor grill

Carbon monoxide is labeled as the silent killer, because it cannot be detected by our any of our five senses which are smell, touch, sight, sound, and taste. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assert that at least 430 people in the United States die each year from CO poisoning. The use of fuel-burning sources increases when there is a natural disaster or severe weather event. During these emergencies, electricity and other power sources are shut down and people must resort to generators and other independent sources of power that use fuel.

carbon monoxide alarm

Carbon Monoxide Symptoms

Carbon monoxide symptoms are intense and if exposed to in large quantities even in a short amount of time can be fatal. Here are some common CO exposure symptoms:

– Dizziness
– Nausea
– Chest Tightness or Pain
– Headaches
– Fatigue
– Drowsiness
– Blurred Vision
– Muscle Weakness
– Confusion
– Loss of Consciousness
– Vomiting
– Shortness of Breath or Difficulty Breathing

dizziness, headache

Young children, the elderly, the disabled, people with heart or lung diseases, people at high altitude levels and individuals who smoke cigarettes are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you suspect there are high CO levels in your home, you should immediately open windows, exterior doors, or ventilation systems, remove yourself and others outdoors, and contact local authorities.

Carbon Monoxide Prevention

We believe that the most important step to prevention is awareness and knowledge. If you’ve read up to this point, then you’re on your way to protecting yourself, your friends, family, and co-workers from CO poisoning. There are many prevention measures that can be taken to guard against potential CO poisoning.

– Turn on the range hood exhaust when cooking or using the oven
– Ensure proper ventilation if you are using a fireplace or any indoor device that uses fuel
– Open windows as necessary before using an indoor device that uses fuel
– Only use charcoal grills and propane barbecues outdoors to ensure proper ventilation
– Maintain all items that use fuel regularly to ensure proper functioning and ventilation
– Clean chimney and fireplace flues regularly to ensure proper ventilation
– Consider using electric-powered devices rather than fuel-powered devices
– Do not use a gas stove or range to heat your residence
– Do not leave a vehicle motor running inside a garage or in an enclosed area
– When it snows be careful that your car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow
– When it snows, open your windows when you start your car

buried car covered exhaust pipe

The most important preventative technique is to use a carbon monoxide alarm, which will be discussed in the next section.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide alarms are one of the best tools to prevent CO poisoning. It is impossible to rid your house of all fuel-generating sources as most homes are heated by fuel and many ovens are fueled by gas. The most important thing to do is purchase a carbon monoxide alarm and check the batteries regularly or at least every 6 months. The number and location or carbon monoxide detectors varies depending on the layout of your home. There are several different recommendations – inside each bedroom, one of each floor, outside of the bedroom. There are also laws regarding the use of CO alarms, so please consult your state’s laws for more information. Here is a link to the laws in New York City regarding smoke and carbon monoxide alarms: NYC Laws for Smoke Detectors and CO Alarms

The CO alarm should be tested once a week by pressing the test/reset button.

The CO alarm should be cleaned and dusted once a month by wiping down the unit with a dry cloth.

CO alarms should not be placed near windows or doors. If you place an alarm by the window or door, it may not detect small amounts of CO because of the ventilation and air coming in and out.

CO Alarm Cost

The cost of a co alarm ranges from $15 up to $100, so they can be purchased relatively inexpensively. A dependable model will cost you between $20-$30. Here are a few links to purchase co alarms:

Kidde CO Alarm on Amazon

First Alert CO Alarm at Home Depot

Safety should always come first when it comes to protecting yourself, your loved ones and your residence. Carbon monoxide is a threat that you will never see coming and can be deadly to you and your family. The only way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to be knowledgeable and take a few basic measures like installing a CO alarm and being aware of the fuel-producing devices in your house.


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