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You probably already know that carbon monoxide or CO, can cause sudden illness and death. Did you know that CO is colorless and odorless? Because it is undetectable by our senses, CO detectors are an important part of any life safety solution. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.
According to the CDC, 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.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 150 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products. These products include malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as portable generators; fireplaces; and charcoal that is burned in homes and other enclosed areas. According to this video from the CDC, placing your generator 15 feet from your home may NOT be far enough away.
Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu without the typical fever. They include:
High level CO poisoning results in progressively severe symptoms, including:
Symptom severity is related to both the CO level and the duration of exposure. For slowly developing residential CO problems, occupants and/or physicians can mistake mild to moderate CO poisoning symptoms for the flu, which sometimes results in tragic deaths.
For rapid, high level CO exposures (e.g., associated with use of generators in residential spaces), victims can quickly become confused, and can lose muscle control without having first experienced milder symptoms.
Follow these easy steps from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to guard against CO poisoning in your home or office:
For more information on carbon monoxide including how much CO is dangerous to your health, read the full article here by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Read more about preventing CO poisoning on your boat from the CDC here.
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