Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home that’s in good working condition, with fresh batteries? As winter approaches, now is a good time to check and double-check, as this is the time of year when the risk of CO poisoning is the greatest.

And there’s no mistaking that CO poisoning is a serious health risk. Data tracked by the Centers for Disease Control shows that over 10,000 people annually need medical treatment for it, while another 500 will die from its effects. As of January 2017, 38 states have varying levels of requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in homes; in some states they’re also required in schools and hotels and motels.

Carbon monoxide – the “silent killer” – is the odorless, tasteless and colorless gas that can be emitted when any appliance that burns wood or other fuels like oil, gas, propane, kerosene or coal is not functioning correctly or is poorly vented. If it occurs in your home, it’s not likely to be contained to one room. In fact, that’s what can make it insidious in multi-unit buildings. It easily passes through drywall, whose porous nature does nothing to block the gas. Once it’s in the building “envelope” there’s nothing to contain it.

If you have an undetected carbon monoxide issue in your home, you may feel ill with flu-like symptoms – headache, nausea, sleepiness, dizziness and confusion. If exposure is extended, it can cause vomiting and chest pain. At its worst, it can cause coma, heart attack and death. 

CO poisoning is typically treated with oxygen therapy for as long as 24 hours. If pregnant women suffer from it, they should go through hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Carbon monoxide detectors are one precaution you should take against the risk, and one per floor may not be sufficient to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. They should be located in central areas of your home, near your bedrooms and at least 15 feet from your furnace. They also should be checked monthly. 

Among the suggestions offered by the American Association of Poison Control Centers to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Make sure your flue is open if you’re using your working fireplace, whether you’re burning wood or gas logs. It’s also a good idea to have professionals inspect your chimney, fireplace, wood stove and flues before the winter weather sets in.
  • Your furnace should also get a winter checkup, and necessary adjustments, each fall.
  • Neither your charcoal nor your gas grill should ever be used inside an enclosed space, whether it’s your house or garage or a porch that’s even partially closed in.
  • Your gas stove or oven should never be used to heat your house.
  • A running car emits carbon monoxide, so never leave it running inside a garage, whether the door is opened or closed. It’s also dangerous to sleep in a parked car while the engine is running.

If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, shut off your heating system, leave the house and call emergency services and/or your heating company immediately.  Your health is too important to put at risk. 

Contact HUB to consult on personal winter weather safety and other risk issues today.