Carbon Monoxide, abbreviated CO, is a toxic gas produced by the incomplete combustion (burning) of carbon-rich materials. These materials are mostly things like wood, coal, natural gas, propane, and other carbon-rich fuels.
CO is toxic because it compromises the red blood cells in the blood, thus severely undermining the ability of these cells to carry oxygen around the body. Deprived of oxygen, your body will inevitably die – a subtle kind of choking.
The bad news is, CO is odorless and colorless and, therefore, hard to detect if you are locked in a room with the above mentioned half-burnt fuels. It knocks you unconscious before killing you. There are many CO-related deaths that happen yearly; mostly accidentally.
To avoid CO poisoning, you should take the following measures:
Keep the ventilation and air passages clear
This is particularly important when you have a fireplace, furnace, dryer, or stove in your house. If something blocks the vents of these areas, it can hamper the airflow that the fuel needs to burn completely and produce Carbon Dioxide instead of Carbon Monoxide. Main culprits that cause blockages are snow and debris from a storm. Check on that before you light the fire to warm your house.
Don’t run an engine in an enclosed area
The term engine in this context refers to any mechanical device that burns fuel. The engine that springs to mind when we mention this is a car. Don’t start your car in a closed garage because the CO levels will build up quickly. In addition to cars, don’t fire up your grill or run a generator in a poorly ventilated area. Always open up the doors or other air passages to let the air in.
Install CO alarms
If you follow proper gas safety advice and know that CO is difficult to detect, you should appreciate the importance of CO alarms. CO alarms and detectors sense dangerously high levels of CO and alert you. The best place to install them is around your sleeping areas or places with relatively poor ventilation like basements and garages where you are likely to run fuel-based appliances. Some local building codes can help with identifying the most appropriate places to set the alarms. Do your research as you move in or build your house.
Do Regular Maintenance
Remember to regularly maintain the CO alarm system in your home by replacing the batteries when they run out and repairing or replacing faulty alarms. Ensure that you are constantly protected from carbon monoxide poisoning even when there is a power outage in your area.
Schedule the maintenance of your fuel-consuming apparatus on a regular basis. Have a professional mechanic check the vents of each device to ensure that it operates as it is supposed to.
Keep the ventilation system of your home clean. Also, ensure that the flue is in proper working condition.
If someone falls victim to carbon monoxide poisoning, call the emergency services.
If you feel dizzy or nauseous in a poorly ventilated room, leave the room immediately and head on to the nearest hospital for medical attention.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. If you follow the guidelines provided here, you can avoid getting yourself in trouble.