Winter’s Silent Killer – Carbon Monoxide

More than 500 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year, according to the CDC. More than 25,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 6,000 others are hospitalised.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that often goes undetected, typically striking victims in their sleep.

CO is produced by burning fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, portable generators or furnaces. When CO builds up in enclosed spaces, people who inhale it are poisoned. Proper ventilation does not always guarantee safety.

About 170 people in the United States die every year from carbon monoxide produced by non-automotive consumer products, such as room heaters. So as the weather turns colder, it's important to take extra precautions. - Consumer Product Safety Commission

Who is at Risk?

Extended exposure to CO can cause permanent neurological damage or death. Everyone can be at risk. The CDC says infants, the elderly, and people with chronic illness are prone to CO sickness or death, but carbon monoxide doesn't discriminate – especially in certain conditions.

How Can I Prevent CO Issues in My Home?

Winter is prime time for CO poisoning as people turn on their heating systems and mistakenly warm their cars in closed garages.

First, you install a battery-operated CO detector in your home near each of the bedrooms. Replace the batteries when you Spring Forward and Fall Back. The CDC offers these additional tips:

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • Never use a generator in your home, or less than 20 feet from any window or vent; fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced within minutes.
  • Have your chimney checked and swept every year.
  • Make sure your fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire and kept open well after the fire is extinguished
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly (Call your local HVAC company to ensure your safety).
  • Never use a gas oven for heating your home
  • Never let a car idle in the garage
  • Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Steps When Carbon Monoxide Alarm Sounds

Never ignore your CO alarm, and follow these steps:

  • Immediately move outside to fresh air
  • Call 911.
  • Make sure all persons who were in the home are accounted for.
  • Do not reenter the premises until emergency respondents have given permission to do so