Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning can occur and has occurred in homes, commercial buildings, and retail stores all over the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 Americans die every year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Although it seems surreal, it can happen. After all, carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.
What CO does to the body is mix with hemoglobin in the bloodstream and replaces oxygen until it completely overcomes the body. Someone entering your home or store complaining of nausea, headaches, weakness, or feeling faint are sure signs that there may be a carbon monoxide leak somewhere. High-level poisoning can result in vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness. These symptoms can be mistaken as flu-like symptoms.
Carbon monoxide can come from many sources: unvented kerosene, leaking chimneys, gas furnaces, gas stoves, generators, gas powered equipment, automobile exhaust, etc. If any of these were to leak, it will fill a room that is poorly ventilated and diminish your ability to absorb oxygen.
A few tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Check to see if appliances are installed and comply with codes.
- Get your heating system professionally inspected and serviced, as well as chimneys and flues.
- Do not use charcoal inside a poor-ventilated area. I.e. house or garage.
- In an attached garage, do not leave a car running.
- Do not operate unvented fuel-burning appliances where people are sleeping.
- Do not operate a portable generator in enclosed spaces.
- The color and steadiness of a flame are indicators of gas issues. Blue is good. Yellow/Orange is bad.
- If there is rust in the chamber or visible streaking on the flue outlet, call a qualified technician.
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