Each year, 30,000 people in the United States are sickened by accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Of that, approximately 500 people die in their own home, unaware the “Silent Killer” was to blame.
That’s why the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and industry expert Mike Holmes are here to offer all homeowners tips on how to protect themselves from this deadly gas that could be lurking in their homes.
- Carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled making it virtually invisible. The only way to catch this silent killer is with an electronic sensor.
- Most homes have at least one appliance that burns fuel (wood, propane, gas, natural gas). All fuel-burning machines produce carbon monoxide. These appliances are designed to be vented to the outside, preventing carbon monoxide from mixing with the air we breathe.
- Over time, venting systems may develop cracks or leaks, which can poison the air we breathe with carbon monoxide. Red blood cells take in carbon monoxide faster than oxygen. This reduces oxygen in the bloodstream, causing suffocation. The more carbon monoxide inhaled, the worse the symptoms.
- Doctors struggle to correctly diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning. The standard diagnostic tool is a COHb blood test that must be completed within a few short hours of the poisoning. If the COHb blood test is not completed within this narrow window, doctors may incorrectly rule out carbon monoxide as the culprit and send the patient back into their home, perpetuating the poisoning.
- Without the help of reliable diagnostic tools, our medical community is forced to identify the poisoning based only on symptoms. This is extremely problematic as carbon monoxide is often called “The Great Mimicker” because it looks just like other common illnesses. Chronic, low-level poisoning initial symptoms are similar to those associated with the flu; patients feel tired, cold, and achy, have stomach pain or nausea, and perhaps a headache If the carbon monoxide leak continues, symptoms may progress into anxiety, chronic fatigue, heart disease, migraine, COPD, or depression. Eventually, symptoms look similar to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that home detectors are life-safety devices not intended to protect consumers against low-level CO poisonings. While CO detectors should be a staple in every home, they simply do not do enough.
Industry standards require home detectors to not alarm until after CO levels in your home reach 30 ppm for a period of no less than 30 days. The World Health Organization, however, recommends much stricter limits; no more than 6 ppm for no longer than 24 hours.
Investing in a handheld, low-level carbon monoxide detector with a digital display could be crucial to your family’s health and safety.
How to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning
The National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Association (NCOAA) is partnering with families to make homes safer. Follow these four simple steps today and feel confident that your family is protected from carbon monoxide:
- Install a wall-mounted CO detector near each fuel-burning appliance to protect your family from large CO leaks. Test your wall-mounted CO detectors once a month by pushing the button. Replace all detectors when they are 10 years old or if they do not sound when tested.
- Make sure your appliances are tested annually by a licensed technician. Insist the technician use a handheld CO detector to ensure CO levels are well below the WHO recommended 6 ppm.
- If you suspect CO poisoning or if anyone in your family is experiencing CO poisoning symptoms, call 911 for medical attention. If you find a leak and anyone in your family has been experiencing a chronic health issue, talk to your doctor about CO poisoning and insist previous conditions and diagnoses are reevaluated.
- Consider investing in a portable CO detector if anyone in your family travels, has a chronic health condition, or uses yard equipment or power tools.
Remember to test appliances frequently, fix all leaks, and aim for a 0 ppm target.
If you suspect CO poisoning, don’t wait. Protect your family today. In most areas, your utility provider will come out at no charge to check your appliances to ensure your home is CO safe.