Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It is quite toxic to humans and other oxygen-breathing organisms. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when enough carbon monoxide is inhaled. (See carbon monoxide poisoning)
Low levels of carbon monoxide are always present in air. It can also be produced from incomplete combustion of flame fueled devices such as fireplaces, furnaces, stoves, vehicles, space heaters and others.
Breathing carbon monoxide fumes decreases the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Low levels of oxygen can lead to cell death, including cells in vital organs such as the brain and heart.
A carbon monoxide detector is a device with an alarm that is designed to detect elevated levels of carbon monoxide, the detectors can be AC powered, battery operated or hardwired. The AC powered unit may have a battery backup. As the weight of CO is almost identical to the weight of normal air, the detector can be installed near the ceiling or on a wall. The detector shouldn't be placed near a fireplace and shouldn't be installed near a smoke detector so that you are able to distinguish between a CO and a smoke detector alarm when there is an emergency situation.
CO detectors should be present in every home and each level needs a separate detector. If you have one CO detector it should be installed near the sleeping area and make sure that the alarm is loud enough so that you can wake up when it sounds.
When the alarm sounds, don't panic, try to stay calm because the alarm is intended to sounds before you experience symptoms. Evacuate the house, gather all the members of household out to a safe area where there is fresh air. Check if anyone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (see CO poisoning), if yes than call 911. Ventilate the area and identify the source of the carbon monoxide and make sure that your appliances are checked by a professional as soon as possible.
Prevention of CO poisoning:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. Test and replace the detector according to the instructions of the manufacture, check the batteries according to the manufacture instruction.
- Check the battery once per year.
- Inspect and properly maintain heating system, chimneys and appliances.
- Use non electrical space heaters only in well ventilated areas.
- Don't use a gas oven or stove to heat your house.
- Don't burn charcoal inside your home, garage, tent or camper.
- Don't leave cars running inside the garage.
- If you are using a kerosene heater indoors, make sure there is good ventilation
When buying a CO detector consider the location you want to install the detector in, the power source and the installation ease.
This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.