Every year in the United States, more than 400 people die, and 20,000 visit the emergency department from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The most unintentional CO poisoning events happen in the month of January. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating gas, making it virtually impossible for a human to recognize, even at its highest levels. These characteristics cause this poisonous gas at high levels to be rapidly lethal. It is extremely important that you learn how your house may be haunted by this “ghost” of a chemical and how you may be at danger from it. Carbon monoxide (CO) can be easily prevented if we are educated on how to take proper precautionary measures.
In the winter months, carbon monoxide poisoning is something to be especially cautious of, because most exposures to this chemical come from heating sources. There are very simple ways to prevent and detect carbon monoxide in your living environment.
Follow these key points to ensure your home and workplace are CO-free:
- Ensure all carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed near all heating sources. There should be at least one detector on each floor of an office building (in every HVAC zone), and on every level in the home, including the basement.
- Test whether your CO detectors are functioning properly every spring and fall.
- Have your heating system, water heater, gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced annually by a qualified technician.
- Do not use a generator, portable flameless chemical heaters, charcoal grill, or camp stove indoors, in a basement or garage.
- Never run a motor vehicle in the garage, even if the door is open
Symptoms of acute mild poisoning include nausea, confusion, headaches and weakness. Exposure to higher concentrations of carbon monoxide may produce the effects of vomiting, convulsions, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, and may lead to death. Seek immediate medical attention if there is known CO exposure and you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Carbon monoxide is a chemical agent which deprives the human body of oxygen, so the higher the concentration, the greater the ill effect will be.
Elevated carbon monoxide levels may even explain some reports of paranormal activity! These high levels of CO produce symptoms, such as confusion, convulsions, and delirium, leading people to believe their houses are in fact haunted. Be sure to equip your living space with the proper monitoring devices and avoid certain in-home heating practices to prevent CO haunting your house this winter!