The severe arctic weather across much of the US this weekend is a good time to remind all of us about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning or CO, which is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you.
I always think of this happening while people are sleeping and they are simply not awake to know there is an issue and perish as the CO fills their homes. So I was very surprised to read about more than 2 dozen people being treated by paramedics after showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning at the River Ridge Tap House restaurant in Clemmons, North Carolina. All of these people were dining in the restaurant and became overcome with CO.
The local EMS reported that about 30 people who visited the restaurant on December 8 experienced headaches, nausea, and vomiting. 14 people were taken to the hospital, and the rest were treated and released from the scene. The cause was a malfunction in the restaurant’s heating system which began leaking CO. An off-duty firefighter who happened to be at the restaurant noticed that people were becoming ill, so he called the fire department. Fire officials at the scene confirmed the level of carbon monoxide was 6 times the normal amount. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas so none who worked at the restaurant knew what was happening.
Where is CO found?
CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.
Who is at risk from CO poisoning?
Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20 000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4000 are hospitalized.
How can I prevent CO poisoning in my home?
- Have your heating system serviced annually.
- Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Place your detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom.
- Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming.
- Replace your CO detector every 5 years;- have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year;
- Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors;
- If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expertservice it. An odor from your gas refrigerator can mean it could beleaking CO;
- When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal ofa national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
- Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal ventpipes for appliances, such as a water heater, should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors.
Be safe – stay warm.