Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is still a common problem in the U.S. as households start to use heating equipment to warm up during the colder months. Although installing functional CO detectors at home might significantly reduce poisoning risks, there are also other ways you can do to keep your family safe from this silent killer.
The dangers of CO exposure
CO exposure can endanger anyone, but children and the elderly are often at high risk of poisoning. Just recently, at least 16 children and 3 adults were hospitalized after being exposed to high levels of CO at a daycare facility in Atlanta, Georgia. The kids reportedly suffered vomiting, nausea, and headache which are the common symptoms linked to CO exposure. Responding fire officials believed CO leaked from an improperly installed gas furnace. The daycare owner told reports that a new CO detector system was in place, but she didn’t know why the alarm didn’t go off during the leak. All the victims were later released from the hospital.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 430 people die and approximately 50,000 people are taken to emergency departments in the U.S. every year from unintentional CO poisoning.
These tips can help you prevent CO poisoning at home
CO poisoning risk increases during winter because CO can easily build up inside an enclosed home. CO gas is infamously called “the silent killer” because it is odorless and colorless which can cause sudden illness and death. CO is released into the air when fossil fuel is burned.
As a household, here are the measures you can do to prevent CO poisoning according to CDC:
- Have a reliable CO detector – Use a battery-powered CO detector or have one as a backup to your wired detector and replace the batteries every 6 months. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission site to make sure you’re not buying a recalled CO detector.
- Regularly maintain the heating system – Make sure a qualified technician inspects and maintains all your heating systems and appliances including water heater at least once a year.
- Clean vents and flues – Keep ventilation and flue lines free of debris to ensure efficient air circulation inside the home.
- Switch off vehicle engine in the garage – If your garage is attached to your main home, make sure to switch off your engine once you park your vehicle.
- Operate gas-powered equipment away from home – Generators, pressure washers, and other gas-powered equipment should be at least 20 feet away from your home during operation. Moreover, never operate such equipment in the basement.
- Use portable food heaters outdoors – Never attempt to use charcoal grills, and other portable food heating device inside your home, camper or tent.
- Consider CO exposure as an emergency – Immediately call 911 or get in touch with a healthcare professional if you suspect any signs of CO poisoning.
Prevent CO poisoning and keep your family safe this winter
CO poisoning is relatively easy to prevent once you already know its symptoms and causes. This winter season, make sure that your family is safe and comfortable at home. The tips mentioned here can help you lower if not prevent CO poisoning risk.