What Are Carbon Monoxide High-Risk Areas
Carbon monoxide is a gas produced by carbon fuels that help power our cars and heat our homes. While these fuels are perfectly safe when burned properly and in well-ventilated areas, they can cause serious problems in confined or unventilated areas such as garages, kitchens, basements, or motorhomes. Because these areas all depend on burning carbon fuels (such as gasoline, propane, wood, coal, heating oil, or natural gas) it’s important to ensure they are ventilated and have a carbon monoxide detector installed nearby.
What can cause carbon monoxide in your home?
In most homes, carbon monoxide isn’t a problem thanks to good ventilation and the quality of the equipment which uses carbon fuels. However, it can become a problem if the item, for example, a gas cooker or boiler, is poorly installed, not maintained, or becomes damaged. To keep yourself safe from carbon monoxide, it’s important to bear in mind the following points:
- Gas-powered items such as heaters or portable generators should only be used in well-ventilated areas. Avoid using them in basements or other enclosed rooms.
- Cook safely when camping. Portable gas cookers or grills are ideal for cooking while camping but should only be used in open areas, especially not in or near tents.
- Don’t use a gas cooker for heat. Gas cookers should be only used for their intended purpose, cooking food. While it’s in use, keep windows or doors open where possible.
- Don’t leave your car to warm up in the garage, even in colder months. If you wish to warm up your car before driving on winter mornings, do so out of the garage to prevent a build-up of carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes.
- Keep chimneys clear. If you’re lucky enough to have a picturesque log burner or chimney, you should ensure it’s clean before use. A blocked chimney can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide from burning wood.
Install a carbon monoxide detector. Ideally, you should have one on every floor of your house (much like a smoke detector) and in mobile homes or with camping equipment. This is undoubtedly the best thing you can do to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
What are the dangers of carbon monoxide?
The initial problem with this gas is that it is colorless and odorless, making it almost impossible for us to detect without the help of carbon monoxide alarms. When left undetected, the gas can cause some serious health problems even at a low level and can be fatal at high levels or if left untreated. When exposed to carbon monoxide, the red blood cells become incapable of carrying oxygen around the body, causing the cells and tissue to fail and eventually die. This process presents a variety of symptoms, depending on the time and level of exposure.
Minor symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, vomiting, shortness of breath, or fatigue. However, these symptoms are similar to those of a flu or common cold which are likely not an immediate concern for most people. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can cause far more serious symptoms including loss of memory, vision, balance, and, in severe cases, loss of consciousness.
How long does it take to get carbon monoxide poisoning?
The symptoms of carbon monoxide vary depending on the level and duration of exposure. At a low level of exposure, symptoms could take up to 8 hours to appear and may be mild at first. However, at a significantly higher level of exposure, severe symptoms can appear within 2 hours. For this reason, it’s important to have carbon monoxide detectors installed as they detect the gas far quicker than humans can experience the effects of poisoning.
Using a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Carbon monoxide detectors are by far the easiest and most affordable way to keep you safe from this harmful gas. Most detectors are either battery-powered or plugged into outlets, though some use both power sources to ensure efficiency. This essential piece of equipment should be installed on every floor of the home, with additional detectors in the garage or kitchen. The detector works as an air quality monitor, sounding an alarm when triggered by carbon monoxide, much like a smoke detector. This means the alarm is triggered before you’re even capable of experiencing any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Installing and maintaining a carbon monoxide detector is quick and easy. Plug it into a power outlet or insert batteries and place it in a suitable area, somewhere near bedrooms and the kitchen, boiler or garage. Test the detector monthly, replace the batteries as often as required and replace the detector every few years or as instructed by the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Since our homes, cars, and tools are dependent on burning carbon fuels it’s necessary to take a simple step to keep ourselves safe from the potential harms of carbon monoxide. The affordable carbon monoxide alarm is a real life-saver and must-have in any home.
- What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning? – Penn Medicine
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Dangers, Detection, Response, and Poisoning (AEN-193) – IOWA State University