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November 22, 2022

Carbon monoxide detectors can be life savers if they’re properly installed and maintained

Prevention Carbon Monoxide

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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 goes off 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.

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