You’re probably more likely to shop for health products in a drug store
than a home improvement store. But one product found in a home improvement
store could prove very important to your health — a
carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning
carbon-based fuels such as charcoal, wood, heating oil, diesel fuel, and
gasoline. Because red blood cells pick up carbon monoxide faster than they
pick up oxygen, exposure to this gas will cause your body to replace the
oxygen in your blood with carbon monoxide. Unchecked, that can result in
carbon monoxide poisoning, which leads to at least 430 deaths and about 50,000 emergency room visits
in the U.S. each year.
The key to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning is ventilation. Anything
that can safely burn a carbon-based fuel indoors, such as a fireplace or a
furnace, should be safely and correctly vented. But even with those
precautions, chimneys and air ducts can become clogged, causing carbon
monoxide to accumulate in your home. And since your senses can’t detect it,
you may not notice it until you begin feeling its effects, which include
headaches, dizziness, confusion, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors are designed to alert you before life-threatening
levels of the gas are reached in your home. They can be hard wired, battery
powered, or plug-in with battery backup. They also can either be
stand-alone devices or part of a wired or wireless network, so that if one
sounds, they all do. The
Consumer Product Safety Commission
recommends testing carbon monoxide detectors every month and replacing
their batteries once a year.
You usually only need one carbon monoxide detector per floor, but you may
need more depending on the size of your residence. It should be loud enough
to wake everyone in every room on the floor on which it’s located. Make
sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing them or
having them installed.
Responding to an alarm
If your carbon monoxide detector
and you or other family members are experiencing any symptoms of carbon
monoxide poisoning, evacuate your home immediately and call 911. Don’t go
back in until the first responders have determined that doing so is safe.
If you’re asleep when carbon monoxide begins building up in your home, you
may not notice its effects, which is why having properly working carbon
monoxide detectors is so important. When these devices are installed and
maintained properly, it could spare you a trip to the hospital — or even
save your life.