Carbon monoxide – the silent killer

A simple CO detector like this will save lives by warning you of high concentrations on CO gas. (Source - Kidde 2012)

Carbon monoxide (CO), the silent killer, doesn’t need to be one. CO is a colorless and odorless gas that kills because it is toxic to humans in concentrations over 100 ppm. That is less that 1/100th of 1%. And it is slightly lighter than air.

CO sends more than 20,000 people to emergency rooms every year. But this does not need to happen. Installing a carbon monoxide alarm is a simple task that will save lives. Without a working CO detector, most people would not be aware of a carbon monoxide leak.

At work we have atmospheric testers to check for gases before we enter confined spaces and other closed up locations. One the gases we test for is carbon monoxide. Since we test for it at work, why don’t we test for it where the really important people are – our homes?

Carbon monoxide poisoning will often be mistaken for other illnesses – headaches, the flu and even food poisoning. Children and people with compromised immune systems are particularly susceptible to CO’s effects.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms:

Mild Exposure

  1. Slight headache
  2. Nausea
  3. Vomiting
  4. Fatigue
  5. Flu-like symptoms

Moderate Exposure

  1. Severe headache
  2. Confusion
  3. Rapid heart rate
  4. Drowsiness

Severe Exposure

  1. Convulsions
  2. Unconsciousness
  3. Cardiac or respiratory arrest
  4. Death

Here are my CO safety tips:

    1. Install a CO alarm outside every space that has a fuel burning appliance. The alarm should be at least 15 feet from fuel burning appliances.
    2. Install the CO alarm outside all the sleeping areas.
    3. Test your CO alarm every month. Let children know what the alarm sounds like and teach what to do when the alarm goes off. Set up a meeting place outside the home.
    4. Call 911 AFTER you leave your home.
    5. Change the batteries every year.I do it in March when we change to Daylight Savings Time.
    6. Replace your CO detector every five years.

If you follow these simple low cost steps, you will be making your home safer for everyone.

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About homelandsafety

John Burke, CSP, ARM is currently seeking new opprtunties in the Safety and Risk Managment field. Previously, John was manager of health and safety compliance of Homeland Safety. John is a Certified Safety Professional and holds a designation as an Associate in Risk Management. He has been in the safety business since 1997 as a safety consultant, developer of emergency response plans, trainer and safety engineer and manager. John was also a Facility Security Officer and trainer under DHS/USCG regulations. Prior to joining Homeland, John was a technical consultant for a major insurance company and environmental and safety manager for a NY based utility. John also has experience as a firefighter and EMT. John has been an authorized OSHA construction outreach instructor and has developed and conducted training courses for construction and general safety, fire safety, incident command and emergency response. John previously taught first aid and CPR under the American Red Cross. John is a former marine engineer. He graduated from the US Merchant Marine Academy (BS), Adelphi University (MBA), and NY Institute of Technology (Graduate Certificate).
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