Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, invisible gas that can cause sudden illness and death. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, this toxic gas is formed when fossil fuels such as gasoline, wood, coal, propane, oil and methane, burn incompletely.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, reports that on average about 170 people in the U.S. die each year from carbon monoxide poison. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that annually, several thousand people go to hospital emergency rooms each year for treatment due to exposure to carbon monoxide gas.
Recently, two members of a family in East Point died due to such fumes, emitted by a gas generator in a basement of the home. In the aftermath of this tragedy, East Point fire units canvassed Graywall Street, Leith Avenue, Woodhill Lane, Englewood Drive and Old Colony Road, door to door, and handed out information on carbon monoxide and offered carbon monoxide detectors to residents.
Gas generators can expel carbon monoxide fumes, and these devices should never be used inside of homes, according to a news release. The East Point Fire Department passed out literature that informed citizens on carbon monoxide prevention, signs and symptoms.
Below are some tips and things to watch our for in regards to carbon monoxide detection.
In the home, heating and cooking equipment are not the only sources that can emit carbon monoxide. Vehicles running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of the gas. Generators, which should never be used in the home, are a major source of carbon monoxide. The safety commission indicates that carbon monoxide can be emitted from products that have malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as:
Engine powered equipment such as portable generators
Charcoal burned in homes and other enclosed areas
Signs and symptoms
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. However, if it is suspected, the victim needs to be immediately moved to fresh air and 911 should be called.
Signs and Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of consciousness
Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, the best defense again carbon monoxide poisoning is the safe use, and maintenance of household cooking and heating equipment; as well as the safe use of vehicles and equipment — particularly in attached garages. Having a carbon monoxide detector installed in the home is also highly recommended. The safety commission recommends that carbon monoxide alarms be installed in the hallway outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of the home. Hard wired or plug-in carbon monoxide alarms should have a battery backup.
For best locations for installation in the home, visit www.cpsc.gov and click “search by topic” at the bottom right of the screen.
The fire protection agency also recommends the following safety tips:
To warm up a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting the ignition.
Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open.
Have your vehicle inspected for exhaust leaks, if you have any concerns of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Never use generators in the home.
Have fuel-burning household heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves and space/portable heaters) checked each year before cold weather sets in.
Have chimneys and chimney connectors evaluated for proper installation, cracks, blockages and leaks.
When using a fireplace, open the flue for adequate ventilation.
Kerosene heaters are illegal in many states. Check with local authorities before buying or using one. Open a window slightly when using a kerosene heater. Refuel outside after the device has cooled.
Always use barbecue grills — which can produce carbon monoxide — outside. Never use them in the home or garage.
When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select factory-built products approved by an independent testing laboratory. Do not accept damaged equipment. Hire a qualified technician (usually employed by the local oil or gas company) to install the equipment. Ask about — and insist that the technician follow — applicable fire safety and local building codes.
If you purchase an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house.
When camping, remember to use battery-powered heaters and flashlights in tents, trailers and motorhomes. Using fossil fuels inside these structures is extremely dangerous.
NFPA 501, Standard on Recreational Vehicles, requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in recreational vehicles.
Sounding of carbon monoxide alarm
If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, never ignore it.
Immediately go outside for fresh air
Call 911 — requesting the fire department
After calling 911 check to make certain all persons are accounted for. Do not reenter the premises until emergency responders have given permission. You could lose consciousness or die by reentering the area.
If the source of the carbon monoxide is determined to be a malfunctioned appliance, do not operate the appliance until it has been properly serviced by a trained personnel.
For more safety information, visit www.nfpa.org or www.cpsc.gov. Residents can also contact the East Point Fire Department at (404) 559-6401 or www.eastpointcity.org.