With frigid outside temperatures, people shut and seal windows, turn up their heat, and carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings rise. Every year hundreds of Americans are killed, and thousands more injured, due to CO poisoning. In fact, this odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas, known as the “silent killer,” is the leading cause of poison-related deaths in the U.S.
Most incidents occur in residential homes and are the result of faulty venting of a fuel-burning device such as a furnace or automobile, though recent reported cases have involved larger community establishments.
Like other serious injuries, CO poisoning is both predictable and preventable, with information and the proper precautions. In addition to furnaces and automobiles, CO is emitted from malfunctioning or improperly used stoves, portable generators or space heaters, gas ranges, charcoal, firewood and other products.
“Everyone interested in protecting their family should have a carbon monoxide detector in their home,” says Commissioner of Health Allen Beals, M.D.
CO detectors are an inexpensive solution to a potentially deadly problem. They are widely available at home and hardware stores and not difficult to install. For maximum protection, installing alarms on each level of your home is advised, with at least one near the sleeping area. Even residents with “all electric homes” often use CO-emitting devices such as generators, automobiles, gas dryers and fireplaces. CO alarms should be tested monthly and batteries typically should be changed twice a year.