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How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Nov 6, 2007
Alex loved to barbecue. He had all the tools and all the recipes. So, when it started raining on daughter, Kristin's, birthday party, it made sense to move his grilling job indoors.

It took some level-headed action by the fourteen-year-old daughter to open the garage door and convince Alex she would be perfectly happy with a carry-out pizza.

It seems Kristin had attended a carbon monoxide presentation given at her school by the local fire department, and - her father should be proud to know - she was listening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning kills over 400 people a year in the U.S., and causes over 10,000 to become ill.

Cause For Concern

Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu, minus the fever. They include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea and disorientation. Vision may blur, and your reflexes may slow. Some people have a feeling of tightness across their chest.

If you have any of these symptoms inside your home and you feel better outside, you may have CO poisoning. See a doctor immediately.

Appliances To Be Wary Of

The most common source of dangerous CO levels in homes is an improperly maintained furnace. For that reason, have a qualified service person install (and annually inspect) all fuel-burning appliances in your home, trailer, camper or vacation sites.

This includes heating systems, water heaters, kitchen stoves, gas clothes dryers, unvented space heaters, and fireplaces. You should also:

* Check all flue and vent pipes regularly for cracks, loose connections, and corrosion.

* Buy only appliances that display the mark of a recognized testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or the UL label.

* Never operate unvented gas-burning appliances overnight, in a closed room, or in a room in which you are sleeping.

* Make sure burner flames on furnaces and stoves are blue, burn evenly and have a uniform shape. Flames with yellow tips and poorly-defined edges indicate incomplete combustion. Use your exhaust fan when cooking.

* Do not use the oven, gas range or dryer for heating.

* Be sure all combustion appliances are vented directly outside.

* Never ignore a safety device when it shuts off an appliance.

* Follow manufacturer's directions for operation of all appliances.

* Problems suggesting improper appliance operation include:

- decreasing hot water supply.

- furnace unable to heat house or runs constantly.

- rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney.

- debris or soot falling from chimney, fireplace, or appliances.

- loose masonry on chimney.

- moisture on inside windows.

- unfamiliar or burning odor. Never ignore the smell of fuel!

More To Know About CO

* Never run a car engine in a closed garage.

* Never use charcoal to heat or cook in a house or enclosed space.

* Use kerosene heaters only in well ventilated rooms.

* Avoid "garage-sale specials" or antique stoves.

* Open a window when a fireplace or any stove is in use.

* CO detectors provide early warning before the gas builds to dangerous levels. Plug-in and corded models are most effective.

* Battery operated models are available for locations away from an electrical outlet, or if you heat with wood. Be sure they have the UL label.

* People who live in energy-efficient homes must be very CO wary. It's easier for gas to build up.

* The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests at least one CO detector with an audible alarm be installed near the sleeping area. For more safety, put one on every level and outside each bedroom.

* Put detectors in rooms with fuel-burning appliances, no closer than 15 feet to the appliance.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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