Tips On Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention
Carbon monoxide (CO) may be a simple molecule of one part carbon: one part oxygen, but it also happens to be a silent killer of hundreds of people every year. It is produced when your car burns gasoline or your stove burns wood or coal. It can even be emitted when your barbeque burns propane or your boiler burns natural gas or heating oil, and even in small amounts can permanently damage your health! What to do?
1. Know The Symptoms
The medical reality of carbon monoxide poisoning is that it binds together with your red blood cells and effectively reduces the amount of oxygen that is received by your lungs. Symptoms can be such things as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headache, vomiting, breathing difficulties; alarmingly many of the signs we usually associate with flu. Tragically, though, the result is death, and according to the stats, carbon monoxide poisoning is the second biggest source of poisoning in the US each year, after drug overdoses.
2. Know The Preventions
You should try never to use a gas range to heat your home, due to the carbon monoxide which it can produce. Avoid running your car in the garage; best to do that on the driveway where noxious fumes will be wafted away. Ensure you have sufficient ventilation if using a gas-powered tool, eg. pressure washer, space heater, generator in your basement, or garage. If camping, don’t use a camping stove or charcoal grill inside your camper or tent. At home, get a carbon monoxide detector a.s.a.p. Carbon monoxide detectors are relatively inexpensive and can put inserted into the ceiling of each floor in your house. This could literally save your life.
3. Air Quality Monitors
Indoor air quality monitors, otherwise known as indoor air quality sensors, can be extremely useful in monitoring things like temperature, motion, and light in a way that can be electronically transmitted; an air quality monitor can also detect pollutants, including carbon monoxide. It can detect PM (Particular Matter), VOCs (Volatile organic compounds), humidity, radon, formaldehyde, bioaerosols, methane, and other pollutants. You can monitor these things and take the relevant steps, including getting a trained plumber or gas technician to make your boiler safe, or diagnose whatever the source of the problem is.
4. Smoke Detectors
A smoke detector functions in two ways. The first way is one that uses a light sensor that activates an alarm if smoke particles block the light beam; its technical name is photoelectric detection. The second is the use of an electrical current which passes between diodes, setting off an alarm when smoke particles interfere with it; its technical name is ionization detection. Either way will alert you to smoke, which could also be an indicator of carbon monoxide. However, it is not exclusively designed to detect carbon monoxide per se, which tends to be a silent, invisible killer.
5. Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Unlike smoke detectors these work in three main ways. The first option is biometric sensors which typically depend on some form of a color-changing gel that only alters color when coming into contact with carbon monoxide, setting off an alarm. The second option is a metal oxide semiconductor which has an electrical circuit with silica; carbon monoxide weakens the current to the point where an alarm is activated. The third option is an electrochemical sensor in which there is a chemical solution that houses small electrodes; the solution changes when influenced by carbon monoxide, again setting off an alarm.
What Happens Next?
Hopefully, your alarm will never go off, but if it does it will be when levels of carbon monoxide are low enough not to do you any lasting harm. Typically, a lower level of 50 ppm will take a while to activate the alarm, whereas a higher level of around 150 ppm will activate it much sooner. Your survival instinct will then kick in, empowering you to:
- Open every window and outside-door in the house; yes, even in winter.
- Turn off every appliance that burns fuel; stay outside and seek medical assistance, 9-1-1 emergency assistance if necessary.
- Not smoke or switch on any lights in the house; if there’s a gas leak it could cause an explosion!
- Contact the gas emergency services; if in doubt seek the number through 3-1-1.
- Have your boiler and other fuel-burning appliances serviced as soon as possible; it is unsafe to return to your home until this is done, and only a qualified professional should be entrusted with the task.
Above all, don’t panic. Knowing you have a problem is the first step, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to rectify the problem. Once you’ve had these appliances serviced it should be fine to return to your home. It’s better not to let things get that far, however. Make sure that you’ve taken all the relevant preventative steps mentioned above.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Harvard Health
- How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Healthy Children
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Dangers, Detection, Response, and Poisoning (AEN-193) – IOWA State University