MySafetySign Blog

Carbon Monoxide poisoning at home: The silent killer

Frayed or worn out electric chords, wet floors, fireplaces without mesh screens, and smoking in bed are some safety hazards at home that are easy to identify and fix. However, another hazard is lurking in our homes, invisible, and far more dangerous.

Recently, Walker Sandford, a property management firm in Glasgow, Scotland threw light on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning at home. According to an official press release, “Over 30,000 people have been affected in the UK by Carbon Monoxide (CO) since 2005.” Company founder, Paul Walker, terms the gas as, “UK’s most common poison,” which is responsible for around 50 unintentional deaths every year.

The threat of carbon monoxide poisoning is not confined to the UK. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports, “Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”

Incomplete combustion of any fuel such as gas, kerosene, oil, propane, natural gas, wood, or charcoal results in carbon monoxide emission. Stoves, cars, lanterns, gas ranges, portable generators, lawn mowers, power washers, heating systems, etc. are the common sources of CO in and around our homes. Carbon monoxide can build up to alarming concentrations indoors, when ventilation is inadequate and fuel-burning devices are improperly maintained.

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Carbon Monoxide: A Silent Killer 

Many of the initial carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms, like headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, etc. are not very severe. People often mistake these symptoms for flu, food poisoning, and other illnesses. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says, “You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes.”

Below are some things you can do to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning at home:

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

A typical CO alarm [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

California is one of the 25 US states that requires residential buildings to have carbon monoxide detectors installed. Texas requires carbon monoxide detectors in many day care centers, family home groups, and day care homes. Connecticut and Maryland require carbon monoxide detector installation in schools. Virginia allows tenants to install carbon monoxide detectors in rental properties if they feel it is necessary for their safety.

If a carbon monoxide alarm goes off at home, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends doing the following:

Medical Advisor for Carbon Monoxide Awareness, Dr Ed Walker says, “It (CO) is lethal and highly toxic even in small amounts, yet is commonly found in homes and workplaces all over the world. As a society we are probably less aware of its dangers than we were 50 years ago.”