The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning occurs when the invisible, odorless, colorless, tasteless gas is present in sufficient levels in poorly ventilated, contained spaces, and is inhaled by the occupants. The presence of CO in the bloodstream reduces the amount of oxygen that is carried to blood cells leading to oxygen starvation. At lower concentrations, symptoms can include:
At higher concentrations or after prolonged exposure victims may experience the following:
- Severe headache
Once the brain has been adequately deprived of oxygen symptoms continue to worsen, leading to unconsciousness, permanent brain damage, coma, or death. Long term exposure even at low level concentrations can have serious and even irreversible consequences to the body and nervous system such as organ, neurological, or circulatory system damage.
CO is a natural product of incomplete combustion and while every type of fuel burning device produces a small amount it is typically exhausted through the venting. In a dirty, improperly vented, or malfunctioning furnace however, CO is produced in much higher concentrations and can quickly leak in to your indoor air.
Tips to Prevent CO Poisoning
Carbon monoxide detectors save lives, giving occupants adequate warning to evacuate the home before CO levels can rise and cause damage. Install a CO detector in the hallway outside each sleeping area on every floor in your home, in addition to the following:
- Insist on professional installation of all fuel burning appliances by a certified, reputable contractor.
- Never leave your car running in a carport or garage even when the door is open.
- Never operate a portable generator or other gasoline propelled tool indoors or in close proximity to your home, garage, or other enclosed area.
- Never use an unvented combustion-type heater in a room or other enclosed space where anyone is sleeping.
- Have your heating system professionally inspected and tuned annually, by a qualified, reputable contractor.