Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death, by taking the place of oxygen in a person’s bloodstream, starving tissues of the oxygen they need. The result is brain damage and degradation of other parts of the body and eventually death. It’s found all over American homes in things like cars, generators, lawn mowers, snow blowers, portable stoves, grills, and household appliances like gas ranges, furnaces and home heating systems.
People who are exposed to carbon monoxide may have trouble breathing, headaches, fatigue, nausea, chest pain or suffer from confusion. Sometimes the gas may overtake people so quickly that they don’t even realize that something is happening until too late. If a person senses that this is happening to them, or to a friend or family member, they need to seek medical help immediately.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 500 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning in a typical year, and more than 15,000 need treatment at emergency rooms. Folks can protect themselves by installing a carbon monoxide detector in their home and making sure the batteries are fresh. The National Institutes of Health recommends that there should be at least one detector for each level of the home. Install a detector near any gas burning appliance and have gas-burning appliances inspected regularly. Also, be sure to clean chimneys vents and flues at least once a year.
Although we are still dealing with 100 degree heat in Alabama, it’s not too early to take winter safety precautions. I suggest that all of our readers go to the CPSC website, www.cpsc.gov, and find out all you can do about the dangers and risks of carbon monoxide poisoning and also learn how to guard against it.