Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that often goes undetected, striking victims off guard or in their sleep. Hundreds of people in the U.S. die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 others are hospitalized. The “Invisible Killer” is produced by burning fuel in cars and trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, portable generators, or furnaces. When the gas builds up in enclosed spaces, people or animals that breathe it can be poisoned. Ventilation does not guarantee safety.
Anyone can be at risk. The CDC says infants, the elderly, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia or breathing problems are more prone to illness or death, but carbon monoxide doesn’t discriminate. Below are some tips to avoid or prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Have your furnace, water heater and any other gas or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors
- Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year, and make sure your fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire and well after the fire is extinguished.
- Never use a gas oven to heat your home
- Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage, or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent; fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in just minutes, even if doors and windows are open
- Never run a car in a garage that is attached to a house, even with the garage door open; always open the door to a detached garage to let in fresh air when you run a car inside
Below are some symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to watch out for:
Low to moderate carbon monoxide poisoning is characterized by:
- Shortness of breath
High-Level carbon monoxide poisoning results in:
- Mental confusion
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Loss of consciousness