Beware Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas. It is created by burning oil, coal, charcoal, propane, natural gas and kerosene. Any appliances or equipment using these types of fuel can produce carbon monoxide.

Although most people are not aware what is happening to them when they are poisoned by carbon monoxide, more than 150 people die every year from inhaling the fumes. This number excludes automotive-related deaths from carbon monoxide. Malfunctioning appliances and the improper use of charcoal grills are two common causes of death. Another unfortunate but common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning is the improper use of a generator.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Since the gas itself cannot be detected by human senses, people do not immediately know they have been exposed to it. The first symptoms of moderate poisoning are nausea, fatigue, headache, dizziness and shortness of breath. Serious side effects include loss of muscle function, mental confusion, vomiting and loss of consciousness. People who experience severe side effects often die. The severity of symptoms depends on the person's exposure level to carbon monoxide. Getting help immediately is important to avoid death.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When installing appliances that use gas or solid fuel, it is important to follow the manufacturer's warnings and instructions. Do not cover them with foil or use them without a proper ventilation system. It is also important to keep local building codes in mind. Homeowners should have appliances installed by qualified professionals, and all fuel-based appliances should be inspected annually and serviced as recommended by the manufacturer. Have chimneys inspected and cleaned annually as well. Avoid using a portable generator or grill in an enclosed area. Do not leave a vehicle running in an attached garage whether the door is open or closed.

Another important step to take is to install a CO detector that complies with the UL 2034 safety standard. When installed in a home, these detectors are successful in alerting home occupants when carbon monoxide is present. Install alarms on all floors of the home in the hallways close to each separate sleeping area. Never cover an alarm with curtains, furniture or any other decorations.

Suspected Alarm Malfunction Protocol

People who believe that their carbon monoxide detectors are malfunctioning should replace them. If symptoms of poisoning appear but the alarm is not sounding, the first step is to go outside immediately. Fresh air exposure is important. Use a neighbor's phone or a cell phone to call the local fire department from outside. Staying inside of the affected home could result in loss of consciousness and death.

See a doctor immediately. In some cases, the symptoms may be due to another cause. It is still always best to replace any suspected nonfunctioning alarms. When poisoning is confirmed by a physician, do not return to the home immediately. Have a qualified professional inspect any chimneys and appliances before returning to the home. Replace all carbon monoxide detectors after the professional confirms that it is safe to return home. Alarms are built to alert people when possible life-threatening levels of carbon monoxide are present. However, any device has the capability to malfunction. This is why it is good to have multiple detectors throughout the home.

Testing a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Save the instructions that come with the alarm. Use them to test the product as recommended by the manufacturer. Keep in mind that test buttons indicate functionality in the circuitry but not necessarily in the detection components. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations about how often to replace alarms.

Installing a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing the alarm. Every separate sleeping area of the home should have one. If there are two separate sleeping areas on the main floor and one upstairs, plan to buy three alarms. Some alarms are installed in a wall outlet or on the top side of the wall depending on how the alarm is made. Do not place detectors near heating sources or fuel-burning appliances.

By following these simple tips, it is easier to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. To learn more, discuss concerns with an agent.

​This information is being provided for general informational purposes only. Meemic Insurance Company does not assume any liability in connection with providing this information.

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