Do you want to see me go pale? Tell me that your carbon monoxide alarm keeps going off.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by incomplete combustion of fuels like gas, oil, and wood. In humans, it blocks delivery of oxygen to the body. Hundreds of people die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, and thousands are unknowingly sickened by CO. Depending on the amount inhaled, this gas can worsen heart conditions, and cause fatigue, headache, weakness, confusion, disorientation, nausea, and dizziness.
The sources could be hot water heaters, stoves or anything the burns a fuel. Even cars in attached garages can create dangerous CO problems. I like the National Safety Council’s (NSC) recommendations for what to do if your CO detector goes off:
- Make sure it is the CO detector and not the smoke alarm.
- Check to see if any member of your household is experiencing symptoms.
- If they are, get them and others out of the house immediately and seek medical attention.
- If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate the home with fresh air and turn off all potential sources of CO.
- Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly.
Anyone whose CO alarm is going off should seek help from a professional to locate and fix the source of the problem immediately.
But don’t wait for the alarm. They’re not set to go off at low levels that can still make you ill. We run into homes every week that have a combustion safety issue—issues that may be slowly poisoning the family in the home. Check out the NSC’s general recommendations. All homeowners should get at least an annual check-up on their heating and hot-water system to make sure they are operating properly. And anytime you make changes to your home, from building an addition, to adding air-conditioning, to changing your windows, you should have an expert make sure that all equipment is operating and venting properly.