What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that causes thousands of deaths each year in North America. It is the leading cause of poisoning death in the United States. It is the leading cause of poisoning death in the United States. The most common appliances in your home or even a car in an attached garage can give off the odorless, invisible, and extremely dangerous gas. You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person within minutes. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. When appliances that burn fuel are maintained and properly used, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars.
This article discusses poisoning from breathing in carbon monoxide.
Carbon Monoxide - Poisonous Ingredient?
Carbon monoxide, a chemical produced from the incomplete burning of natural gas or other products containing carbon.
Where is Carbon Monoxide Found?
The following items may produce carbon monoxide:
- Anything that burns coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, or wood
- Automobile engines
- Charcoal grills (charcoal should never be burned indoors)
- Indoor and portable heating systems
- Portable propane heaters
- Stoves (indoor and camp stoves)
- Water heater that use natural gas
Note: This list may not be all inclusive.
What are Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms?
When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the poison replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream. Your heart, brain, and body will become starved of oxygen.
Symptoms vary from person to person. Those at high risk include young children, the elderly, persons with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, and smokers. Carbon monoxide can harm a fetus (unborn baby still in the womb).
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:
- Breathing problems, including no breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
- Chest pain (may occur suddenly in people with angina)
- Impaired judgment
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Rapid or abnormal heart beat
- Nausea and vomiting
Emergency Carbon Monoxide Home Treatment
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air. Seek immediate medical help.
Before Calling Emergency:
Determine the following information:
- Patient's age, weight, and condition
- How long they may have been exposed to the carbon monoxide, if known
Poison Control, or a local emergency number
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the U.S. use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What to expect at the emergency room
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The patient may receive:
- Medicines to treat symptoms
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death. For those who survive, recovery is slow. How well a person does depends on the amount and length of exposure to the carbon monoxide. Permanent brain damage may occur.
If the patient still has impaired mental ability after 2 weeks, the chance of a complete recovery is not very good. Impaired mental ability can reappear within the first 1-2 weeks in those who have been symptom free for a short while. 3
What can I do to prevent Carbon Monoxide from building up in my home?
The most important thing you can do is to make sure all of your appliances are in good working order, and that your garage has proper ventilation OUTSIDE the home. First Alert offers protection through our selection of carbon monoxide alarms.
Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. Place an additional detector near any major gas-burning appliances (such as a furnace or water heater).
Many carbon monoxide poisonings occur in the winter months when furnaces, gas fireplaces, and portable heaters are being used and windows are closed. Make sure you have any heaters and gas-burning appliances regularly inspected to make sure they are safe to use.
Carbon Monoxide detectors work by continually monitoring the levels of carbon monoxide in your home. When the level rises, an alarm sounds, alerting you and your family.
Once I have a carbon monoxide detector, am I secure?
What types of Carbon Monoxide Alarms are there?
Having a carbon monoxide detector will certainly help keep your family safe- but no alarm system in the world is better than proper preventative habits and precautions. Prevention is the Key to Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
What can I do to take Preventative measures?
For a list of do’s and don’ts in preventing Carbon Monoxide build up, click here
What do I do if my Carbon Monoxide Alarm goes off?
First, make sure it is your Carbon Monoxide Alarm and not smoke alarm. If it is the CO alarm, get everyone out of the home immediately. If anyone is experience symptoms, or is lethargic and not waking up, call EMS immediately and tell them you suspect CO poisoning. If no one seems ill, go in the home turn off all potential sources of carbon monoxide- gas furnaces, stoves and appliances, kerosene heaters, and cars. Open the windows and turn on fans to ventilate the home. Then have a qualified technician come to your home to do an inspection.
Where do I place my Carbon Monoxide Alarms?
A carbon monoxide alarm should be placed on every level of the home and one in each sleeping area.
For your safety and peace of mind, First Alert offers several different types of Carbon Monoxide Detectors. All units have mute buttons to silence false alarms, test functions and easy access button drawers to replace batteries.
This CO alarmis for the person who needsbasic protection from the threat of carbon monoxide.
This CO detector plugs into any standard outlet with no additional mounting necessary.
This combination alarm monitors for explosive gas and carbon monoxide and features an alarm with battery backup and backlit digital display. This unit plugs into any standard outlet with no additional mounting necessary. Battery backup ensures alarm works even during power outages. Digital display illuminates hazard level when in alarm or when any button is pressed. Using a household remote, you can silence a false alarm. Single button also tests alarm functions. Explosive gas and carbon monoxide alarm utilizes electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor for increased accuracy.
This battery operated combination smoke & carbon monoxide alarm monitors smoke and Carbon Monoxide levels. Carbon monoxide detector utilizes electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor for increased accuracy.
This CO alarm allows you the convenience of simply plugging in your alarm, but also gives the protection of battery backup in case of power outage.
This CO detector simply plugs into an existing outlet and has a battery backup. The digital display illuminates the hazard level when the alarm sounds or when any button is pressed.
This is a combination battery operated talking CO alarm, which monitors smoke & carbon monoxide levels. The voice also notifies which hazard is being sensed- and ‘tells’ you ‘Warning, evacuate! Smoke in Kitchen!’
This battery operated carbon monoxide alarm offers a backlit digital display which illuminates with hazard level when the alarm sounds or when you press a button.