Carbon monoxide poisoning is a terrifying reality that can happen to anyone. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is often referred to as the silent killer due to it being a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. This means it goes completely undetected by our senses. Thus, when there is a dangerous concentration built up in our homes there is no way of knowing until it makes us ill, or worse kills us. With that said, CO poisoning is easily preventable. CO detectors will suss out a problem (if there is one) in your home. We have put together this informational guide on all things carbon monoxide in the hope that you and your family can breathe easy all season long.
How Common is Carbon Monoxide?
In the United States an average of 438 people die from CO poisoning each year, while this number isn’t shockingly high, compare it to the over 50,000 each year that are hospitalized with it and the issue becomes more of a headliner.
Where does CO come from? What is safe?
Carbon monoxide is generally a safe gas and trace amounts are present in every home. CO is wherever fuel burns, for example: gas stoves, clothes dryers, furnaces, water heaters, chimneys, and attached garages where cars are parked. The gas is measured in ppm, or parts per million. Average levels in homes are anywhere from 0.5 to 9 ppm depending on what sort of appliances are in your home. Anything above 10 ppm is considered unsafe over long periods of exposure. When you reach 30 ppm flu-like symptoms can begin to develop.
What are the signs of CO poisoning?
Now that you know the safe levels of CO poisoning you should know what happens when your home reaches unsafe levels.
- Longterm exposure of ppm levels from 10-29 can cause headaches and nausea.
- When levels reach 30-35 flu-like symptoms in the young and elderly can begin to develop.
- At 36-99 ppm there is a certainty of nausea, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and vomiting.
- Finally, at 100+ ppm CO reaches its most dangerous; confusion, intense headaches, loss of muscle coordination, brain damage, coma and even death can occur.
Depending on the person, “long-term exposure,” can cover anywhere from an hour to a month so you should never ignore the symptoms.
What precautions can be taken?
Standard CO detectors are sold in every home improvement store, however many of them only detect high levels of CO; amounts that reach upwards of 70-80 ppm. When levels as low as 10 ppm can pose a safety threat to your family, it may be wise to consider a more efficient option. Talk to your local HVAC professional about options for low-level CO detectors and what options are available.
If your home already has a CO detector it is very important to test it at least twice per year, and replace it every 5-7 years. If you don’t know how old your detector is, most have a born date imprinted on the outside.
Aside from purchasing and maintaining your CO detector, you can manage your home’s risks in other ways. Make sure to have your furnace cleaned and inspected by a qualified HVAC professional once a year. You should also consider having your gas appliances inspected as well, ensuring all CO perpetrators are operating correctly and no leaks or buildups are occurring. If you have concerns about the levels of carbon monoxide in your home and want to be safe, simply open a window. Ventilation is key to dispersing this silent killer gas. If your CO detector goes off and reads dangerous levels have your family exit the house immediately and call 911. Nobody should reenter the home until authorities have cleared it.
While carbon monoxide poisoning can happen at any time of year it is most common in these impending winter months. The fact is: people are in their homes more; they run their furnaces and appliances, and they keep their windows closed to avoid the cold. Whatever the reason, precautions should be taken. Since faulty furnaces, water heaters, appliances, and ventilation systems left unchecked can escalate into a dangerous problem call Jackson Comfort Heating and Cooling for an inspection today.