According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 400 people nationwide die from unintentional Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning each year. In addition, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and over 4,000 are hospitalized. Help keep your customers safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning by informing them about what it is, where it might be found, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and how to prevent it. Here is some helpful information to pass along.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly if inhaled. It is difficult to detect since it cannot be seen or smelled. Carbon monoxide can be found in fumes emitted from the exhaust of gasoline-powered tools, cars or trucks, small engines, generators, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges and furnaces. If CO builds up in an indoor space that lacks ventilation, it can quickly poison those that inhale it.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, confusion and flu-like symptoms. CO poisoning can also result in loss of consciousness and death. Those who are asleep or otherwise impaired can die from CO poisoning before experiencing symptoms.
Anyone can experience CO poisoning, but it is most likely to affect those with breathing problems, chronic heart disease or anemia. Infants and the elderly are also more susceptible.
According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, severe carbon monoxide poisoning can cause neurological damage, illness, coma and death. People have died while using gasoline-powered tools and generators in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Here are some suggestions for reducing the risk of carbon monoxide over-exposure that your customers should be aware of:
- Consider using tools powered by electricity or compressed air, instead of tools powered by gasoline or other chemicals.
- Make sure you have effective and functioning carbon monoxide detectors. If you have a battery-operated or battery backup CO detector, check the battery on a regular basis.
- Replace detectors every five years.
- Buy a detector with a digital readout that can tell you where the highest concentrations of CO are.
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
- When buying gas equipment, make sure it has the seal of approval by a national testing agency like Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL).
- Make sure gas appliances have proper ventilation. Horizontal vent pipes for water heaters and other appliances should go up slightly as they go outdoors. This will prevent CO from leaking if pipes or joints aren’t properly fitted. If unsure about this, contact a licensed professional.
- Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum or similar materials.
- Never burn charcoal or use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
- Avoid using a generator indoors or in an enclosed or partially enclosed space such as a garage, crawl space, or basement.
- Do not use a generator indoors without a working CO detector. Opening windows and doors in an enclosed space may prevent CO buildup, but there is still risk.
- Make sure a generator has 3-4 feet of clear space on all sides and above it to ensure adequate ventilation.
- When using a generator outdoors, keep it away from doors, windows and vents.
Remember: carbon monoxide is a very dangerous gas that is difficult to detect and can cause unconsciousness in minutes. The dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning are very real. Be aware of your surroundings and the risks involved, and give your customers the information they need to ensure their own safety.
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