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Some Dangers Are Silent

Each year in America, hundreds of people die accidentally from non-fire related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning associated with faulty, improperly used or incorrectly vented fuel-burning appliances.  You cannot see, taste, or smell the gas—hence the reason it is often referred to as “the silent killer”—but, at high enough levels, it can kill a person in minutes.  It is created anytime a fuel is burned.  If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous.  However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.  Educating yourself on the symptoms of CO poisoning and a few simple steps you can take to minimize your risk of exposure is crucial to keeping you and your loved ones happy and healthy…and alive!

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Check their batteries when you check your fire alarm.

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives. Check the batteries when you check your fire alarm. Keep your family healthy and safe.

Knowing the symptoms of CO poisoning can be a lifesaver.  At moderate CO levels, you and your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy or disoriented, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint.  You can even die if these levels persist for an extended period of time.  Low levels of CO can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your overall health.  Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of more common ailments—the flu, food poisoning, etc.—many may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.  If these symptoms only occur in the house and/or disappear or decrease when you leave home only to reappear when you return, CO poisoning may well be the culprit.  Getting fresh air as soon as any of these symptoms are noticed is key.

CO poisoning can often be linked directly to faulty heating appliances in your home.  As a precautionary measure, having your heating equipment (fireplace and chimney) cleaned and inspected by a professional annually is a must.  Creosote deposits and/or debris inside your chimney can lead to unsafe conditions within your home when you have a fire going in the fireplace.  Another key precautionary measure is installing at least one battery-powered CO alarm or AC-powered unit with a battery backup on each level of your home and near sleeping areas, and plan to check the batteries regularly to ensure your home is still being monitored; upgrading each of these units every 5-7 years will help to ensure that you’re benefiting from the latest technology upgrades as well.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Becoming more aware of the dangers associated with CO poisoning is extremely important for everyone, as prevention is the key to avoiding it altogether.  Make sure to have your fuel-burning appliances inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season.  Also make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good working condition, and not blocked.  Remember, CO cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled; your only defense against this silent killer is prevention.

By John Pilger on October 22nd, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Comments Off on Some Dangers Are Silent