What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500 people each year die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are some facts to help you understand what carbon monoxide is and how we can protect ourselves from it:

● What is carbon monoxide? Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of the incomplete burning of solid, liquid or gaseous fuels. Examples of these fuels are gasoline, natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood and even charcoal. Natural gas and liquid propane gas fuel many of the furnaces and water heaters in our homes. We fuel our cars with gasoline, and some of us heat all or part of our homes with kerosene heaters.

●What is the danger from carbon monoxide? Carbon monoxide is poisonous to people and animals. Because it is odorless and colorless, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up without us knowing it.

● How much carbon monoxide is dangerous? Carbon monoxide is measured in parts per million. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, the effects of 1 to 70 PPM are uncertain. Symptoms become more noticeable as levels reach 70 to 200 PPM.

● How do I know whether I am experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning? Typical symptoms are headache, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. If you are experiencing any of these conditions, you may have elevated levels of carbon monoxide in your home.

● What should I do if I think I have carbon monoxide poisoning? If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, the following actions are recommended: Turn off all combustion appliances, open windows or doors for ventilation, leave your home immediately, and call your fire department and report your symptoms. Consultation with your doctor is also recommended.

● How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in my home? To reduce the risks, observe the following rules:

Have all furnaces, clothes dryers and water heaters inspected yearly by a licensed technician.

Have fireplace chimneys inspected yearly by a qualified chimney sweep prior to use.

Never leave unvented fuel-burning heaters unattended. Preferably a window or door should be opened slightly when unvented appliances are in use.

Never use stoves or cook tops to heat your house.

Install carbon monoxide detectors.

● How and where should I install detectors? The International Residential Code, adapted by the state of Georgia, has required the installation of carbon monoxide alarms “in the general vicinity of each sleeping area”. CO detectors should always be installed following the manufacturer’s instructions. Detectors should meet Underwriters Laboratory standard 2034. This standard should be listed on the detector packaging. Make sure that you test your CO detectors periodically per the manufacturer’s instructions. A detector with a dead battery will not protect you.

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