Keeping Safe from the “Silent Killer”
Protect Against Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that is difficult to detect because it is odorless and invisible. As a result, it is known as “the silent killer.” According to the CDC, 450 people die and nearly 21,000 CO exposures occur each year.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death.
CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, and gas ranges and heating systems. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned by breathing it.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.
How does CO poisoning work?
Red blood cells pick up CO quicker than they pick up oxygen. If there is a lot of CO in the air, the body may replace oxygen in blood with CO. This blocks oxygen from getting into the body, which can damage tissues and result in death.
Who is at risk from CO poisoning?
All people and animals are at risk for CO poisoning. Certain groups — unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems — are more susceptible to its effects. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning. Fatality is highest among Americans 65 and older.
What are some danger signs?
- You or other members of your family have symptoms of CO exposure (see above symptoms).
- You notice a sharp, penetrating odor or smell of gas when your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment turns on.
- The air is stale or stuffy.
- The pilot light of your furnace or other fuel-burning equipment goes out.
- Chalky white powder forms on the chimney/exhaust vent pipe or soot build-up occurs around the exhaust vent.
- Here is what the “Parts Per Million” CO Exposure means to your Health.
See OSHA Graph at bottom for additional charts.
How can I prevent CO poisoning from my home appliances?
- Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors. Although these heaters don’t have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator’s cooling unit have an expert service it. An odor from the cooling unit of your gas refrigerator can mean you have a defect in the cooling unit. It could also be giving off CO.
- When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or Underwriters’ Laboratories.
- Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
How do I vent my gas appliances properly?
- All gas appliances must be vented so that CO will not build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
- Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin.
- Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.
- Horizontal vent pipes to fuel appliances should not be perfectly level. Indoor vent pipes should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors. This helps prevent CO or other gases from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
How can I heat my house safely or cook when the power is out?
- Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a buildup of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never use a charcoal grill or a barbecue grill indoors. Using a grill indoors will cause a buildup of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper unless you use it inside a vented fireplace.
- Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal — red, gray, black, or white — gives off CO.
- Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
- Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window, door, or vent.
How can I avoid CO poisoning from my vehicle?
- Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of my car every year. A small leak in your car’s exhaust system can lead to a buildup of CO inside the car.
- Never run a car or truck in the garage with the garage door shut. CO can build up quickly while your car or truck is running in a closed garage. Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house and always open the door to any garage to let in fresh air when running a car or truck inside the garage.
- If you drive a vehicle with a tailgate, when you open the tailgate, you also need to open vents or windows to make sure air is moving through your car. If only the tailgate is open CO from the exhaust will be pulled into the car.
CO poisoning can be prevented by proper care and use of household equipment. CO alarms can provide early detection if CO leaks or accumulation occurs. Both are important for your safety.
· If you suspect CO poisoning in your home, call the appropriate responding agency, usually your local fire department or 9-1-1. Keep all emergency response numbers posted by every telephone.
CO alarms are different from smoke alarms, and have different functions. CO alarms do not provide early warning of a fire. Smoke alarms do not provide early warning of CO exposure. Your home needs both CO and smoke alarm protection. (Insure it meets the requirements and specifications of UL 2034)
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?
A colorless, odorless gas that may be produced by any appliance burning fuels such as natural gas, liquid propane (LP), coal, kerosene, wood or charcoal.
Often going undetected, symptoms from exposure range from a simple headache or confusion, nausea, and may even turn fatal. Two hundred people die and thousands more are sickened every year by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS ARE AS IMPORTANT TO HOME SAFETY AS SMOKE ALARMS
Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to symptoms of the flu, and can include headache, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath. To distinguish between symptoms of flu and CO poisoning — if you feel better after leaving home and then worse again when you return, it may be CO exposure causing the symptoms. If your CO alarm sounds check to see if it is plugged in properly, or if battery-powered, check the battery to be sure the device is operating. If you suspect that CO is leaking in your home, follow these steps from the Home Safety Council:
· Open windows and doors to ventilate the rooms, or in severe cases of CO exposure, evacuate the home.
· Call to report that you suspect CO is accumulating. Usually the appropriate agency to call is the fire department or 9-1-1.
· Seek immediate medical treatment for anyone who has severe symptoms.
· Follow the advice of the responding agency before re-entering your home, and quickly obtain repairs as needed.
Portable Electric Generator Safety Tips
Portable electric generators offer great benefits when outages affect your home. Below are guidelines for safely connecting and operating portable generators. Additional information is available about selecting and purchasing generators.Don’t connect your generator directly to your home’s wiring.
Connecting a portable electric generator directly to your household wiring can be deadly to you and others. A generator that is directly connected to your home’s wiring can ‘back feed’ onto the power lines connected to your home.
Utility transformers can then “step-up” or increase this back feed to thousands of volts—enough to kill a utility lineman making outage repairs a long way from your house. You could also cause expensive damage to utility equipment and your generator. The only safe way to connect a portable electric generator to your existing wiring is to have a licensed electrical contractor install a transfer switch. The transfer switch transfers power from the utility power lines to the power coming from your generator.
Never plug a portable electric generator into a regular household outlet.
Plugging a generator into a regular household outlet can energize “dead” power lines and injure neighbors or utility workers. Connect individual appliances that have their outdoor-rated power cords directly to the receptacle outlet of the generator, or connect these cord-connected appliances to the generator with the appropriate outdoor-rated power cord having a sufficient wire gauge to handle the electrical load.
Don’t overload the generator.
Do not operate more appliances and equipment than the output rating of the generator. Overloading your generator can seriously damage your valuable appliances and electronics. Prioritize your needs. A portable electric generator should be used only when necessary, and only to power essential equipment.
Never use a generator indoors or in an attached garage.
Just like your automobile, a portable generator uses an internal combustion engine that emits deadly carbon monoxide. Be sure to place the generator where exhaust fumes will not enter the house. Only operate it outdoors in a well-ventilated, dry area, away from air intakes to the home, and protected from direct exposure to rain and snow, preferably under a canopy, open shed or carport.
Use the proper power cords.
Plug individual appliances into the generator using heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a wire gauge adequate for the appliance load. Overloaded cords can cause fires or equipment damage. Don’t use extension cords with exposed wires or worn shielding. Make sure the cords from the generator don’t present a tripping hazard. Don’t run cords under rugs where heat might build up or cord damage may go unnoticed.
Read and adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to safety. Carefully read and observe all instructions in your portable electric generator’s owner manual.
To prevent electrical shock, make sure your generator is properly grounded.
Consult your manufacturer’s manual for correct grounding procedures.
Do not store fuel indoors or try to refuel a generator while it’s running.
Gasoline (and other flammable liquids) should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers. They should not be stored in a garage if a fuel-burning appliance is in the garage. The vapor from gasoline can travel invisibly along the ground and be ignited by pilot lights or electric arcs caused by turning on the lights. Avoid spilling fuel on hot components. Put out all flames or cigarettes when handling gasoline. Always have a fully charged, approved fire extinguisher located near the generator. Never attempt to refuel a portable generator while it’s running.
Turn off all equipment powered by the generator before shutting down your generator.
Avoid getting burned.
Many generator parts are hot enough to burn you during operation.
Keep children away from portable electric generators at all times.
Remember Safety First, Safety Always!
Information provided by Home Safety Council, OSHA, NSC, ASSE and the CDC
Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Ken Oswald , CHSO, STS , EHS Supervisor , DFA-Portales NM