February 9, 2012

The Silent Killer

Defective furnaces, fireplaces, flues, space heaters, ovens, oil heaters and any gasoline-powered engines are most frequently responsible for accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings. When improperly vented, malfunctioning systems and appliances like furnaces and air-conditioners can slowly fill your home with CO.

In the United States, CO leaks are known as the "silent killer" responsible for an estimated 500 deaths a year and more than 15,000 trips to the emergency room. However, as CO poisoning often goes unreported, the number of instances is most likely much higher. 

What Can You Look For?

CO is dangerous because there tend to be no noticeable symptoms if an individual's CO levels are at less than 10 percent in the bloodstream.  Above 10 percent, CO poisoning symptoms may mimic the flu or a cold. At that level, symptoms may include:
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Mild confusion
  • Irregular breathing and heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Coughing
Take note especially if everyone in the home is experiencing at least some of the symptoms, and pay particular attention if pets exhibit symptoms, since animals cannot get the flu.
When CO levels exceed 20 percent, the poisoning can be fatal.

What Should You Do?

If you suspect that you or members of your family are suffering from CO poisoning:
  • Evacuate your home; get everyone outdoors immediately.
  • Call 9-1-1 from another location.
  • Report it to the fire department, even if everyone is feeling better.
Be prepared.  Be safe.

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