Carbon monoxide = silent killer

Camino — Carbon monoxide, aka CO, is widely known as the “silent killer” because you can not see it, taste it, or smell it, according to Cal Fire Unit Chief Kelly Keenan of the Amador-El Dorado Unit.

“Annually over 400 people die and another 20,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning,” Keenan said.”So what exactly is carbon monoxide? CO is the result of combustion (burning) of a fuel such as wood burning fireplaces, gas furnace, gas water heaters, gas stoves and ovens, portable generators, barbecue grills and even your running car or truck.”

The fumes from the combustion contain CO gas and when a person breathes this gas in they are subject to CO poisoning.

“If you are exposed to high levels of CO, you may feel flu-like symptoms such as a headache, nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness/light headedness because the CO replaces the oxygen in the red blood cell and won’t allow oxygen to reach your organs,” Keenan explained. “A person’s red blood cells actually bond with CO easier than it bonds with oxygen. High levels of CO can kill a person in minutes and it is the No. 1 cause of unintentional death by poison in the United States. If you suspect CO poisoning, get the person or persons to fresh air immediately, then call 911. In some cases CO poisoning can cause permanent brain and heart damage.”

As of July 1 of this year, carbon monoxide alarms in single family dwellings are required by state law.

Minimally, you should have CO alarms outside each sleeping area and on each level of your home including the basement. If you can afford it, put a CO alarm in each sleeping area (bedroom). Check the batteries monthly and change the battery twice a year (Spring Forward/Fall Back). If they are plug-ins, test them once a month and if they have a battery backup, change that battery twice a year. Don’t forget to vacuum the alarms often to keep them in proper working order.

Key points:
• Never use a barbecue or outdoor space heater in your home or garage.
• Do not leave your vehicle running in your garage, even for a few minutes.
• Never heat your room or home with your kitchen oven.
• Have your home heating system checked by a professional annually.
• Have your wood burning stove or fire place professionally cleaned annually.

“If your CO alarm sounds, Get everyone out of the house and call 911,” Keenan said. “If you can’t physically leave the house, move to an open doorway or open a window and stay there. Call 911. Do not close the window or door. Never reenter the structure until the fire department has said it is OK; that is our job and we are more than happy to do it.”

For more information visit the Center for Disease Controls website at cdc.gov/co.

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Posted by on Oct 4 2011.
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