Avoid the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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With the recent tragedy in Parks, AZ we are reminded of the dangers of carbon monoxide in our homes. Sedona Fire District encourages residents to take precautions to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a year round threat, however as temperatures drop, the potential for CO poisonings rise due to the inappropriate use of portable heating units or furnaces that are improperly installed or not working correctly. CO is a highly poisonous gas produced by burning fuels such as gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, charcoal and wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. The risk of illness or death increases with the level of CO in the air and the amount of time exposed.

Dangerous CO levels can result when home appliances are not properly maintained or when used incorrectly. “Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion,” said Don Arwine, Paramedic with Sedona Fire District, “It is called the silent killer because it is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas.” The only way to detect CO in your home is by the use of a properly installed and functioning carbon monoxide detector.

“If your home utilizes fuel burning appliances or has an attached garage, you need a CO detector in your house,” stated Arwine. Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness. “Since symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think CO poisoning is the cause,” cautioned Arwine. Anyone who suspects symptoms of CO poisoning should go outside the home or building without delay and seek prompt medical attention. If a person has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 for emergency medical assistance immediately from a safer location such as outside or from a neighbor’s home. Children, pregnant women and individuals with heart conditions are most vulnerable.

Tips to help prevent CO poisoning:
*   Never use a gas stove or oven to heat the home.
*   Never burn charcoal inside a house, garage, vehicle or tent, including in a    fireplace.
*   Unvented gas, propane or kerosene heaters are NEVER safe to use in enclosed spaces.
*   Install and use fuel-burning appliances according to manufacturer instructions, the International Building Code and the International Fire Code.
*  Inspect the exhaust system of each fuel burning appliance every year, including chimneys, flues and vents. Check for blockage, holes and disconnections.
*   Have fuel-burning appliances inspected and serviced annually by a licensed contractor.
*   Never leave an automobile running in a garage, even with the garage door open.
*   Do not leave the rear window or tailgate of a vehicle open while driving. CO from the exhaust can be pulled inside the car, van or camper.
*   Never use a portable generator or a fuel-powered tool indoors or in other enclosed or partially enclosed areas.
*   Always place portable generators outdoors on a dry surface far away from doors, windows, vents and air-conditioning equipment that could allow CO to enter. Orient the generator so that it is placed with the exhaust port pointing away from the home.
*   Install battery operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup inside a house according to manufacturer’s installation instructions or NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 720: Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment.
*   Install only CO alarms that meet the UL (Underwriter Laboratories) 2034 or the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) 6.19 standards.
*   Replace CO alarm batteries once a year and test alarms frequently.
*   Replace CO alarms every five years or as often as recommended by the alarm manufacturer.