Even Today People Die From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless and odorless gas. People can't tell when they are inhaling it so CO can kill before people even know it's there. That's why a carbon monoxide detector is a critical safety feature in any home, boat or recreational vehicle. In many jurisdictions you are required by law to have a CO detector in your home. CO is present in the atmosphere in low levels, but becomes dangerous and even fatal in higher concentrations.
CO is a by-product of combustion. They are a number of things that may increase the carbon monoxide levels in your home. They include propane heaters and stoves, improperly vented oil or propane fueled furnaces, charcoal grills, gas water heaters, kerosene space heaters, portable generators and cigarette smoke.
CO levels can build quickly if you have a blocked or closed fireplace flue, insufficient ventilation, blocked chimneys, use charcoal grills indoors or in an attached garage or a have a malfunctioning furnace.
How Does Carbon Monoxide Cause Death?
According to the Center for Disease Control carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States, killing roughly 450 people and injuring 20,000 others per year.
Carbon monoxide causes poisoning by binding to your hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells which carry oxygen. CO is far more effective in binding to hemoglobin so it begins to rob vital organs like your heart and brain of oxygen. If you survive carbon monoxide poisoning you may still suffer life-long disabilities.
CO poisoning symptoms depend on the level of carbon monoxide in the air, which is measured in parts per million. At 200 ppm you may have a slight headache, feel fatigued or be nauseous. 800 ppm causes dizziness, nausea, hallucinations and convulsions within 45 minutes and death within two to three hours. At 1600 ppm death occurs with one hour and at 13,000 death occurs in one to three minutes.
Choosing the Right Carbon Monoxide Detector
You don't need to spend a lot of money. You can get a trustworthy and effective CO detector starting at around $30.
Look for a unit with a memory feature. Simply by pushing a button you can see the changes in CO levels over a period of time. You may be able to correlate the use of a form of heating with a rise in CO levels.
Make sure your unit has a "test" feature. Pushing that button once a week lets you know if the detector is functioning properly. Some models let you activate the test or silence mode using a television remote control from up to five feet away. There's no point having a CO detector if it doesn't work.
Battery operated units give you the flexibility of placing the detectors anywhere you want in your home, boat or RV. However you have to be diligent about replacing the batteries.
Electric CO detectors can be placed in any electrical plug-in. The pros of these units are that you don't have to worry about replacing the batteries. The cons are that you are limited where you can place them and they don't work when the power is out if they don't have built in batteries for back-up. If you are using an electric detector make sure it's not in a plug-in that's controlled by a wall switch.
If you have a large home consider a CO detector that uses radio waves to set off other units in the house when it detects there is a problem.
Single units that detect both smoke and carbon monoxide are also available.
There's lots of options out there. Your local fire department or furnace installer may have suggestions. Browse the hardware store or shop on line and sleep well knowing your family is safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.