If someone said entering a building can expose a person to a gas toxin that is highly poisonous, but it can’t be seen, heard, smelled, or tasted, many people would refuse to enter. However, in residential homes, carbon monoxide leaks every day, putting at risk the residents around the clock. Better known as CO poisoning, carbon monoxide is an off-gas that occurs from burning. The most common sources of it in a home tend to be the home furnace, the stove, and anything that involves burning material, like a working fireplace.
Normally, furnaces and fireplaces as well as stoves have a vent and flue for all the smoke and off-gas to escape through without harming residents. However, when the flue is not working correctly, or there is a leak in the system, the carbon monoxide can escape and instead flow through the rest of the home. CO is heavier gas, so it will move and deposit into lower areas, making basements the worst place for a deposit. However, where a room is closed off without outside airflow, carbon monoxide can build up in a room enough to be poisonous, even within a single night while people are sleeping.
Symptoms to Watch For
The biological effect of CO poisoning is known as carbon monoxide poisoning. Essentially, the body absorbs CO faster than oxygen when it gets breathed in. The body needs oxygen to feed the body through the circulatory system. Instead, the blood holds onto the carbon monoxide, and the body starves without enough oxygen. At first, one might feel dizzy, get flushed in the face as the blood is trying to get oxygen through the skin, and begin suffering a very painful headache. This then turns into nausea, confusion, blurred vision, loss of motor control, and trouble breathing. When extreme exposure has happened, the victim starts to pass out, organ failure begins to start and the body shuts down to protect vital systems. Eventually, continued exposure can lead to death.
Treatment for CO poisoning is immediate with the goal of flushing the body with oxygen to restore its O2 levels in the bloodstream again. Victims frequently suffer from memory loss, inability to walk or move normally, and personality changes. Serious cases have also resulted in brain damage and permanent, ongoing limitations afterward.
New Homes Regulations and Updating Old Homes
New homes with construction code requirements and older homes with changes are expected to be brought up to code with CO monitors. However, even as late as the mid-2000s such monitors were not required in many states. Many homeowners use secondary-market monitors they install at home for localized sensors. But these don’t work as well as properly-installed systems.
Installing Monitoring Correctly
A fully-qualified carbon monoxide detector installation can provide far better protection than a simple monitor bought from a hardware store. First, the installer will evaluate the home and the most likely sources of CO emissions. At this point, once checked to make sure there are no existing leaks already occurring, a high-grade detector is then installed where it has the highest probability of picking up a problem once it starts. Doing so helps ensure the CO leak is spotted immediately versus being allowed to continue without attention.
Remember, it's very easy to create the right conditions for CO poisoning in a closed-up home, especially during the cold months when people use their heating a lot and do a lot of cooking on the stove. That and other burning appliances create serious risks without a proper monitor in place. Don't be another CO poisoning statistic. Prevention is far easier than dealing with an avoidable tragedy.
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