If the death of the man and seven children in Maryland has you worried about carbon monoxide, good. In this tragic case, in a home with no electricity, the culprit may have been a generator. Before you think this couldn’t happen to you, consider this. Each year, thousands of people suffer from CO poisoning and about 200 – 500 are killed (reports vary.) Carbon monoxide is silent, colorless, tasteless and odorless, making it impossible for humans to detect.
Early symptoms include: headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, blurred vision and nausea. If levels of CO in a home are low, these symptoms can be confused with the flu and may go untreated.
Continued exposure will lead to: vomiting, confusion & poor coordination followed by loss of consciousness and death. High levels will lead to these symptoms much quicker, sometimes bypassing the milder symptoms completely. If a person is sleeping, they will be unaware of the poison.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can be even more dangerous for unborn babies, children and the elderly. If a person survives, but the exposure was serious, long term brain and cardiac complications may occur.
If you suspect you are having symptoms of CO poisoning, get into fresh air immediately. Do not delay. Call 911 as soon as you can.
— Install CO detectors in your home, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for checking efficacy and when to replace. Check the batteries (along with those of your smoke detectors) at least twice a year.
— Never run your car engine in an enclosed space. Never leave your car running in a garage attached to your home, even if the door is open.
— Adhere to directions on gas appliances, and never use them to heat your home. Ensure they are in a well ventilated area.
— Run generators only in well ventilated areas, and preferably when someone is awake to monitor them.
— If you have a fireplace, perform routine maintenance.
— Consult your utility company about checking gas appliances, including furnaces.
— Never use appliances designed for outside within your home, e.g. gas or charcoal grills, camping stove tops, etc.
Finally, never ignore the alarm on a carbon monoxide detector. You can purchase one for as low as $15. It could save your life.