Carbon Monoxide: A Hidden Threat

With no scent or color, carbon monoxide poses serious risk to
homeowners and families
It’s odorless, colorless and life-threatening, and it could be lingering in the air in your home. Carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for more than 2,000 deaths a year in the United States, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. And without the proper alarm system, anyone’s home can be at risk for contamination.

Carbon monoxide is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas and fuel oil. It’s highly toxic and can leak from unvented kerosene, gas space heaters, furnaces and wood stoves.

Depending on how much of the gas is leaked into the air, carbon monoxide can become deadly within minutes. It’s important for people to have their heating systems checked and carbon monoxide alarms installed in their homes, said Hollister Fire Chief Bill Garringer.

“Every home heater has a filter system that is either replaceable or can be cleaned, and it needs to be checked at least once a year,” he said.

Those who own older homes should also be on the lookout for cracks in their heater flue.

Another cause of poisoning is when someone tries to use their barbecue pit or grill indoors.

“They need to be used in a well-vented area, not inside the home or garage,” Garringer said. “The gas can get trapped in there.”

Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in a central location of the home and should be tested at least once a month. If the alarm sounds, anyone who is in the house should go outside and call 911.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the most preventable illnesses occurring in the United States today, according to the journal. Symptoms of someone who may be poisoned include severe headache, dizziness, mental confusion, nausea and faintness.

“It’s a silent killer, and it can kill you in your sleep,” Gilroy Fire Division Chief Clay Bentson said. “Having an alarm is a good, safe, economical tool to have in your home to protect your family.”

Along with testing the alarm once a month, Garringer said it’s important to check the batteries twice a year, when the time changes to and from daylight savings.

Detectors can be found at most major department stores and are between $20 and $50.

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