HEALTH CENTER

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What is Carbon Monoxide and Does it Affect Home Safety? by Michelle Muse

Michelle (640x427)Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas.  You can’t see, taste, or smell it, but carbon monoxide has the power to kill before one is even aware of its presence.
 

Why is CO so dangerous?

When inhaled, CO attracts and binds to hemoglobin in the human bloodstream, thus decreasing the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood.  This ultimately deprives the heart and brain of oxygen, which is needed in order to function.  When CO is present in the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood causing symptoms similar to the flu, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability.  As CO levels increase, vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage, or death can result.

If you suspect that you have been exposed to CO, immediately consult with a doctor.  Prompt medical attention is important if you are experiencing any symptoms of poisoning. If the doctor confirms CO exposure, make sure a qualified service person inspects all of the appliances and heating devices in your household for proper operation before reusing them.

This is not meant to scare but to inform you of the potential danger that may be present in your home.  Often times, people assume an appliance, such as a water heater, is working properly, but over time the piping and metals in the furnace become damaged, prompting CO leakage.  Because leakage can occur without warning, some states require the application of an in-home CO detector.  California has passed a similar law, with the exception that detector installation requirements only apply within dwelling units, not single homes.

CO is the number one cause of poisoning in the United States, yet less than five percent of all CO poisonings are reported.  Listed are simple steps that can be taken to insure your house is safe from this toxic gas:

  • Purchase a CO detector
  • Call the gas company to check for leaks (every two years)
  • Turn off your furnace during the summer
  • Sleep with a window open, especially in two-story homes
  • Set your thermostat between 65 – 68 degrees in the evening

Your home may not require as much maintenance as your physical health, but keep in mind that it is a good idea to inspect your home of CO exposure at least every two years.

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.