Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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I remember hearing a story in which a young college girl was sleeping in her dorm room while a handyman was working on fixing the heating system. He inadvertently allowed carbon monoxide to seep into her room, and the girl slowly suffocated to death. It is a terrifying story, but it is a tragedy that happens too often. This story stuck with me to the point where I installed a carbon monoxide detector in my rental property when I was a landlord.

Carbon monoxide is a silent, but deadly CO2 that can find its way into any home without the home-owner's knowledge. And because it is virtually odorless, many people succumb to suffocation before realizing the problem. It is one poison that kills more people annually than any other poison, and it can also cause neurological damage in low doses. Carbon monoxide in small quantities will usually not kill you instantly, but symptoms of mild poisoning include nausea, headaches and dizziness.

Sources of carbon monoxide include burning oil, gas, wood, and it can be emitted from old appliances. A good precautionary measure is to have any old appliance and furnace checked during the winter, but getting a detector is the best option.

Quality Detectors

When it comes to choosing a good detector, it is all about being familiar the different types available.

Biomimetic CO Detector

This is a proactive detector that will absorb any carbon monoxide through a gel made of synthetic hemoglobin. This is usually a sensor that clears itself within 2 to 48 hours, but it does require the sensor to sit in fresh air to clear. If not, the sensor will sound the alarm. The battery and sensor should be replaced every 2-3 years, but the detector itself can last ten years.

Electrochemical CO Detector

This version detector comes with a self-sustaining battery. It will detect varying degrees of monoxide, and it will record any past levels of poisoning in in your home. This detector usually lasts five years.

Metal-Oxide Semiconductor CO Detector

This is an electronic plug-in version that requires the least maintenance. It is also a good choice if you're looking for minimal installation. It has a long-lasting battery, and usually lasts anywhere from 5-10 years.

And while these detectors generally do not require frequent battery replacement, it is best to check the battery once a month. One detector per household is sufficient, but having one on each floor of the home is also an option.

But to avoid monoxide levels in the first place, you can remain vigilant by doing simple things around the home.

Other Prevention Measures

Never allow a car to run with the garage door closed. If you're giving your vehicle time to warm up in the garage, it is best allow the vehicle to warm up in the driveway instead. The same can be said of lawnmowers, grass trimmers, or any other gas-powered equipment.

Inside the home, never sleep with a gas or kerosene heater in an unvented room. And when it comes to air conditioning and heating, never allow the air conditioning and the heater to run in congruence. This will only cause a backdraft, allowing CO2 to spread throughout the house. It is all too easy for people to forget to turn off the the heater and air conditioning in regions where the weather fluctuates, or if a house tends to get too drafty.

When it comes to appliances, check the pilot lights on any water heater or gas stove to make sure they don't blow out frequently. And there is also tendency to use a gas stove to heat homes, but this is also a no-no.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone, but a few common sense steps such as the aforementioned measures will protect you and your family.


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