What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas.
Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?
Oxygen is transported throughout your body using a complex protein in your blood called hemoglobin. When blood passes through the lungs, the iron atoms in the hemoglobin weakly bind to oxygen atoms in the air. When the blood flows into areas of the body that are lacking in oxygen, the iron atoms release their oxygen.
Carbon Monoxide molecules, on the other hand, form a strong bond to the iron atoms in the hemoglobin and are not easily released. A hemoglobin that is attached to a carbon monoxide molecule can no longer carry oxygen to the body. Because carbon monoxide forms a strong bond, it builds up in the blood reducing the blood's ability to carry oxygen resulting in suffocation and possible death.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to the flu but without the fever;
- Shortness of breath
- Mental confusion
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Loss of consciousness
How to treat carbon monoxide poisoning
Because carbon monoxide bonds strongly to the hemoglobin in the blood,
immediate treatment at a hospital is required. Only moving a person to fresh
air is not enough. Perform the following steps;
1) Move the person outdoors into fresh air
2) Call 911
3) Perform CPR until help arrives
What can you do to reduce the risk?
Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms
- At least one carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home
- One alarm within 10 feet of each sleeping area
- One alarm near or over any attached garage
- Don't install alarms within 15 feet of heating or cooking appliances
- Don't install alarms in humid areas like a bathroom
- Don't install alarms near doors or windows that are opened regularly
- Don't install alarms behind furniture or curtains
Proper Use and Maintenance
- Have a certified professional inspect, clean, and tune-up your central heating system yearly
- Follow manufacturers guidelines
- Replace alarms every 5 to 6 years according to the manufacturer's guidelines
- Monitor appliances, chimney's and vents for visible soot, rust, stains, blockage or corrosion
- Open flues when using your fireplace and do not close until fire is completely out
- Never use generators indoors or in crawl spaces
- Use open heaters in well-ventilated areas
- Don't use a gas kitchen oven to heat a house
- Don't burn charcoal or use a grill indoors