The Danger of Carbon Monoxide

We’ve all been sweating it out in the summer sun, but it won’t be that long until we are wishing for a little extra warmth. Now is the time to think about preventive maintenance for your preferred method of heating your home. This includes gas or oil furnaces, boilers, space heaters, or wood stoves and fireplaces. The older the device, the more likely it is to cause problems. Cracks in the combustion chamber or exhaust pipe, leaking seams, or a malfunction in the combustion process can cause carbon monoxide gas, a combustion product, to be released into your home.

Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, so you won’t know it’s there until it’s possibly too late. Annually in the United States, an average of 430 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning while nearly 50,000 require treatment in an emergency department. Symptoms can include: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, impaired vision and coordination, confusion, and coma. In early stages, it can feel like the flu.

In some cases, people fall asleep, are poisoned, and never wake up. This is why it is important to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home in addition to, or in combination with, smoke detectors. Just remember, by the time the carbon monoxide detector goes off, the level inside the home is already quite high. Open windows and doors and get outside as quickly as possible if your carbon monoxide detector goes off. Then call 911, especially if anyone is feeling ill.

Carbon monoxide acts by binding to hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin normally carries vital oxygen. With the poisonous gas taking up all that space, little is left for the oxygen we need for our bodies to live and work properly. Smokers already tend to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide just from the combustion of the burning tobacco. Those with any kind of anemia or underlying lung disease may succumb to the effects of carbon monoxide more rapidly. Be safe. Have your heating equipment checked before winter and invest in a carbon monoxide detector. It could just save your life.

Reduce your carbon monoxide by participating in CARD’s free tobacco cessation services offered as part of our federally funded asbestos health screening program. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Stephanie at 293-9274 ext.139.