It is disturbing to realize that many people are unaware of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Even more disturbing is the lack of awareness regarding the causes of CO exposure, the symptoms of CO exposure, and the ways to drastically reduce the risk of exposure to this poisonous gas. The following questions and answers provide basic information that everyone should know about this noxious and deadly gas.
Q. – What is carbon monoxide?
A. – Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly poisonous gas. It is invisible, has no odour, and cannot be detected by a taste in your mouth.
Q. – Where does CO come from?
A. – This gas is created when fossil fuels do not have sufficient oxygen to fully combust. Cooking and heating appliances that have been installed incorrectly or have not been cleaned and maintained yearly are means by which CO can accumulate in a home.
Q. – Can I tell if I am being exposed to CO gas?
A. – The only way you can know if CO is present in the home is to install a carbon monoxide detector. They should be installed near the sleeping areas, as well as near appliances that pose a risk.
Q. – How do I protect my home and family from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning?
A. – One of the most important things to do is to identify every appliance in your home that has the potential to leak CO gas. Make sure a certified engineer annually inspects every appliance that uses a fossil fuel. A registered Gas Safe Engineer should service all gas appliances. Oil appliances require maintenance by a certified OFTEC engineer. HETAS certified engineers are qualified to service solid fuel appliances. To avoid a CO buildup in your home, make sure all appliances are used in properly vented areas. Additionally, chimneys and flues must be thoroughly inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a qualified chimney sweep. Audible carbon monoxide detectors for home are affordable and simple to install, but they are not an alternative to following all of the other maintenance and safety tips as they only detect the higher levels of CO. Be sure the detector your purchase meets necessary standards and is BS Kitemark or EN 50291 compliant.
Q. – What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
A. – Many of the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to symptoms you might experience with the flu, such as headache, nausea, and dizziness, It is easy to recover from low-level CO poisoning if it extends only for a short period of time. The administration of oxygen is usually enough to clean the CO out of the blood. Long-term exposure to low levels of CO can be debilitating and cause permanent health problems, including memory loss, behavioural problems, cognition problems, and brain damage. High levels of CO poisoning attack the body and quickly displace the oxygen in the blood stream, suffocating its victim. Severe nausea, headache, muscle weakness, dementia, and collapse, followed by unconsciousness occur with extreme levels of CO exposure. Within minutes, death occurs. Those victims who are rescued in time from severe CO, may suffer lifelong difficulties from the poison exposure, including permanent brain damage.
Q. – Who is at the greatest risk of severe carbon monoxide poisoning?
A. – Smokers already have carbon monoxide in their blood streams and are at risk of levels elevating rapidly. Alcoholics are also at great risk, as are people with cardiovascular disease and chronic lung disease. Children may develop symptoms faster than adults. Fetuses of pregnant women can suffer permanent medical problems from exposure to this deadly gas.
Q. – What should I do if I think my family is being exposed to CO poisoning?
A. – The first and most important action is to remove your family from the exposure area to outside the home, and encourage them to breath in the fresh air deeply. If possible, open all the windows to ventilate the house, but not if the risk to your health is great. Call safety authorities immediately, and seek medical attention for your family. When the crisis is over, have certified engineers repair or replace the appliance or appliances responsible for the CO exposure.
Education about the dangers of CO is important. Be sure your family understands the dangers and knows what the symptoms of CO exposure are. Carbon monoxide safety information and regular maintenance of your appliances will help keep your family safe from the dangers of this deadly gas.
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