Carbon Monoxide Risks in the Home
Over the years there have been many misunderstandings about the risks that are associated with carbon monoxide (CO) in the home. We answer many questions for the public about CO. This article will address the most common questions we are asked.
What is CO?
Carbon Monoxide is a by product of incomplete combustion. In particular, fuels such as natural gas, propane, wood, gas, and coal produce CO when they burn. CO is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas which makes it impossible to detect without detectors. The biggest sources of CO gas in the homes are home heating, cooking, and automobiles.
What does CO do?
CO has a range of effects that may vary depending on the amount of gas exposed to and duration of exposure. The effects could be as minor as a mild headache or be fatal. CO replaces oxygen in the blood stream to the point it can cause suffocation. In many cases people are experiencing the effects to CO and attribute them to having the flu.
What can I do to protect myself?
There are many things you can do to prevent CO exposures. The first of which is to purchase a CO detector. These detectors alert you if dangerous levels of CO are present in the home. Other methods of prevention are never run your car in a closed garage and keep all chimneys, flues, and water heater vents free from obstructions. Always keep a window cracked while using kerosene heaters and never use grills in the home or in an enclosed area.
Will a CO detector work as a smoke alarm?
NO!, a CO detector will not replace your smoke alarm. The most common misunderstanding is that the CO produced by a house fire will sound the CO alarm. This is not true, the CO alarm will not sound soon enough to allow escape during a house fire. Smoke alarms and CO alarms must be treated as two different, but necessary, means of protection.
What do I do if my CO alarm sounds?
The first thing to do is leave your house closing the doors and windows behind you. Then call 911 from a neighbors home or pay phone. If someone in the home is exhibiting any flu like symptoms or headaches inform the 911 operator when you call.
Can a CO detector give a false alarm?
Yes, CO detectors can give false alarms. Pollution and atmospheric conditions can cause CO to be present for long periods of time. This in turn will cause the alarm to sound when conditions in the home are perfectly safe. Currently, there are no ways to avoid these alarms other then following the manufactures specifications for the alarm's care and maintenance.
In the past year we have purchased multi-gas monitors that will allow us to take readings within a home. This allows us to determine if the CO alarm is a false alarm or if there is actually a problem. We have purchased industrial grade CO alarms that we will leave in a home that sound an alarm if dangerous levels of CO are detected. We will loan these alarms to our citizens free of charge when we suspect they may have a CO leak in their home for a short time.
If you have any questions about CO or would like to see a demonstration of our multi-gas monitor please contact us at 770-961-4008. Ask for Sergeant Paul Bonner, Captain Michael Byrd, or Sergeant Carl Demarco.