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What You Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The changing of the seasons usually brings along a laundry list of chores to most homeowners, in addition to some chilly weather. One task that should be at the top of the list is making sure your home’s carbon monoxide (CO) detector is working properly.

The presence of carbon monoxide gas is almost impossible to detect without some sort of device. The gas is odorless, colorless, and invisible, and can weave its way throughout your home much easier in the winter months. CO gases are created when heating elements that use natural gas, propane, wood, or oil do not completely burn off their fuels. Breathing in these fumes poisons the body and can be deadly. The effects may appear mild at first, as the individual begins to feel dizzy and nauseous, but can quickly turn to exertion and loss of consciousness.

Fortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable by performing routine safety checks around the house, and by installing and maintaining carbon monoxide detectors within the home. Proper maintenance of the home’s cooking and heating sources is the best place to start, but also consider safeguarding the house from the exhaust fumes of generators and vehicles. Recent statistics from the U.S. National Safety Council show that the two leading causes of accidental death from gases or vapors come from carbon monoxide given off by running vehicles and cooking and heating equipment.

The Center for Disease Control and the National Fire Protection Agency agree that having carbon monoxide detectors in the home is a family’s best line of defense against poisoning. Follow these tips to help protect your home from this deadly gas:

• Only use CO detectors that have been approved by a qualified, independent testing laboratory.

• The sensors in CO devices do not last forever. Abide by the manufacturer’s suggested replacement interval.

• Battery-powered detectors should receive new batteries once a year, unless the directions give a different time frame.

• Choose a centralized location outside of the family’s sleeping area to install the detector, making sure that its alarm can clearly be heard in each bedroom.

• List the phone numbers of the local fire and rescue services with your other emergency contacts.

• Perform a monthly test on all carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are powered and working.

In the event that your detector’s alarm sounds, immediately evacuate your home, leaving doors open and turning off cooking and heating equipment, if possible. Alert the fire department and seek appropriate medical attention if anyone shows symptoms of CO poisoning. After the carbon monoxide levels return to normal, have your home’s equipment inspected for leaks and areas of weakness by a qualified technician.

Remember, carbon monoxide poisoning is serious and deadly, and its symptoms should never be taken lightly. By following the tips mentioned above, you can help protect yourself and your family from the “silent killer” during the wintertime and throughout the year.