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Carbon Monoxide Kills! How to Protect Yourself

Updated on October 11, 2009

The old fashioned air safety detector

Why protect yourself from Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

The shocking fact is that, on average 170 people in the US die every year from CO producing non-automotive products. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates visits to hospital emergency rooms every year for CO poisoning treatments numbers as high as several thousand people. These figures refer to people who have become unintentionally poisoned and does not include intentional poisoning.

CO is dangerous because it interferes with the bloods ability to carry oxygen. Carbon Monoxide combines with the hemoglobin of blood 250 times better then oxygen and prevents a sufficient supply of oxygen through the body.

How can I tell I am being effected by CO gases?

CO is odorless and colorless and thus it is undetectable to the human senses, it is easy to be exposed unknowingly. The first symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of 
  • Breath
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

These early stage symptoms can be like having a very mild flu. These symptoms are easy to dismiss but high level CO poisoning symptoms are more severe and frightening. These symptoms include:

  • Mental Confusion
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

What steps can I take to protect myself?

There are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself in the home. One is to periodically check for proper operation and venting of all gas appliances. Make sure that flues, chimneys and vents are clear of debris to maintain good ventilation. Do not use outdoor cooking devices like charcoal grills in the home and do not use un-vented space heaters or gas stoves.

Since even low concentrations of carbon monoxide or CO pose significants risks to health I advise investing in a CO detector. The best places to install a CO detector is in the hallways outside the bedrooms of each sleeping area of the home. Alarms can be installed into wall plugs or high on the wall. Both of these types of alarm should have a battery backup to ensure its continued effective use. When you purchase a carbon monoxide detector it will come with specific instructions so as to give the most reliable protection and guidance to keep you safe.

I can relate to the feeling that this might be another example of health and safety gone mad. This was exactly my feeling before doing a bit of research on the actual likelihood of experiencing health problems. I am now wondering if the general flu like feelings I get from time to time as well as the headaches I can suffer might actually have a cause. It is much easier to imagine these nasty health problems might actually have a cause instead of being a random affliction. It seems to me that the cost of a detector is a small price to pay to know that my home environment is not making me ill.


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