Facts on carbon monoxide

July 15, 2010 | In: Science facts

You can’t see it, smell it or taste it. But don’t let the insidious signs of carbon monoxide poisoning fool you. Exposure to carbon monoxide can be lethal. Taking steps to prevent and detect carbon monoxide exposure is important to ensure a healthy home environment.

The risks of carbon monoxide poisoning can increase during the winter months when people may seal up their homes and begin using combustible fuel devices for heating. This is a good time for people to make sure they are properly protected.

Carbon monoxide is the product of incomplete combustion of fuel. Household carbon monoxide poisoning is usually related to the malfunctioning or improper use of a fuel-burning device, such as a wood stove, gas or oil heater, or any other fuel-burning appliance in the home. The gas is also emitted from burning charcoal and car exhaust.

Carbon monoxide impairs the body’s ability to use oxygen. Symptoms of early or mild carbon monoxide poisoning often resemble the flu. People may experience a headache, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, irregular breathing or flushing of the skin. It can progress to loss of consciousness, brain damage and death. Those with respiratory or cardiovascular problems are more likely to be affected by carbon monoxide exposure, as are fetuses, infants and seniors.

To protect against carbon monoxide poisoning it’s important to have heaters, appliances and combustible fuel sources regularly cleaned and inspected to ensure they are operating properly. Appliances should be installed according to manufacturer’s directions. And chimneys and vent pipes should also be inspected for blockages that can lead to improper ventilation of toxic exhaust fumes.

Installing audible carbon monoxide detectors in your home is helpful. These should be placed in or near bedrooms and be loud enough to awaken you during the night. To make sure detectors meet current standards.

If you or other family members experience signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s important to get fresh air as soon as possible. Open windows, doors and turn off any fuel sources in the home. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, seek medical attention.

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