Every year nationwide, an average of 20,000 to 30,000 people are sickened by accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and approximately 500 people die from such poisoning, many in their own homes.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. Relatively small amounts of carbon monoxide in the air can kill within two to three hours.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless gas that is a resulting byproduct of combustion, such as the exhaust from a car or from a gas- or propane-fired home appliance such as a stove or water heater.
CO has a weight that is almost the same weight as the air in a room. This means CO does not float or sink in a room like propane (sinks) and natural gas (floats or rises) in the air. CO mixes with the air. With its weight and the fact that you cannot see or smell the CO, it makes for a deadly hazard.
The Roswell Fire Department Fire Prevention Division provides these tips to help avoid potential deadly exposure to this very common gas:
- Unless your home or office is “completely electric,” a CO detector should be used just like smoke detectors. The CO detector should be tested monthly and should have fresh batteries replaced at least once a year (twice is better). It is recommended CO detectors be placed approximately “at the level of a sleeping person’s nose and mouth” and near sleeping areas.
- Gas- or propane-fired appliances such as water heaters, furnaces and stoves should be inspected and checked for proper ventilation to the outside air and for leaks.
- Burners on these appliances can be visually inspected to ensure the flame is uniform and blue in color and not producing smoke or orange or yellow flames. This is a sign of incomplete combustion of the gas and therefore can potentially cause an increase in the production of CO.
- Never use an oven to heat a home or room! Gas-fired residential ovens are designed to only heat the oven compartment to a set temperature. This allows for the burner to shut off when the desired temperature is reached, allowing the oven to keep CO levels at a lower safe level. When the door is left open to heat a room, the burner never reaches the temperature and therefore fills the room with CO as well as heat.
If your CO detector sounds, you should immediately evacuate the area. Call the Fire Department immediately. The Fire Department has special tools to monitor the air to check for CO.
Please remember, since CO is colorless and odorless, symptoms to exposure may show up before you realize you have been exposed. Symptoms may include:
- Dull headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
Call 911 immediately if you or anyone you are with displays signs or symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Citizens can obtain more information about protecting themselves against carbon monoxide and other health and safety threats in the home or other buildings by calling the RFD Fire Prevention Division at (575) 624-6830.