In the past two weeks, two families from the Pacific Northwest (both families had several members involved) have been sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning. This occurred after a severe windstorm knocked out electrical power to thousands in Oregon and Washington.
One family brought in their barbeque grill to cook on in the house. The other group had a gas generator operating in the attached garage off the kitchen. Fortunately, no one died, but some became critically ill and had to spend several days in the hospital. We MUST be alert to the dangers of this deadly gas that cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. We need to be aware of what NOT TO DO and to remember what TO DO if we suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is the most toxic substance you’ll come into contact with in your daily life at home, at work, in the car, RV or boat. This colorless, odorless gas can cause brain damage and death. It is known as the ‘Silent Killer‘, and takes over 2000 lives each year. It will also kill your pets!
Install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home near every sleeping area. Also install CO alarms in your boat and recreational vehicle. These ARE NOT the same as smoke alarms and smoke or fire alarms do not detect carbon monoxide. Make sure the carbon monoxide detectors are checked monthly as well as your smoke detectors. This is extremely important. They MUST work. If the alarm sounds, evacuate immediately. Do not take chances with thinking it is just a malfunction. EVACUATE!
This deadly gas is formed when organic compounds burn. Some common sources are motor vehicle exhaust, engine fumes, smoke from fires and non-electric heaters.
Here are some other common sources of carbon monoxide:
Gas water heaters
Kerosene space heaters
Propane stoves and BBQ’s
Gas-powered concrete saws
Indoor tractor pulls
Swimming behind a motorboat
Spray paint, solvents, degreasers, and pain removers
Risks for exposure to carbon monoxide include:
Children and pets riding in the back of an enclosed pickup truck
Industrial workers at pulp mills, steel foundries and plants producing formaldehyde or coke
Personnel at fire scenes
Using heating sources during power outages
Anyone working indoors with combustion engines or combustible gasses
Other things to do to prevent CO poisoning:
Make sure your home is inspected regularly for hazards. The heating system, chimney and flue must be inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician every year. Make sure chimneys have proper ventilation and kept free of leaves, residue and nests.
Inspect the furnace and other appliances like gas ovens, ranges and cook tops. Make sure they are all properly ventilated and that the pilot light burns safely.
DO NOT burn charcoal inside the house or garage, vehicle or tent!
DO NOT use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent!
DO NOT operate gasoline powered equipment inside a home or garage or basement, NOT even with the doors open!
DO NOT block or seal shut flues or ducts for appliances like water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.
Make sure all appliances are installed according to manufacturer’s instructions and local codes.
DO NOT use gas appliances like ranges, ovens and clothes dryers for heating your home.
The Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
Shortness of breath
Memory and walking problems
Many have mistaken these symptoms for the flu and tragic deaths have occurred. ALWAYS SEEK MEDICAL HELP! Carbon monoxide makes people feel sleepy, or if they are asleep, it prevents people from waking up.
If any of the above signs and symptoms are noticed, move to fresh air immediately. You must seek emergency medical help! Be Safe!