Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, highly-toxic flammable gas that is a product of chemical reactions that occur in a fire. The effects of inhaling carbon monoxide can range from mild headaches and lethargy, to confusion, unconsciousness and even death.
Causes of carbon monoxide in a building can include:
- Improper combustion, or improper ventilation, of furnaces fueled by natural gas or oil
- Water heaters
- Fireplaces or wood burning stoves
- Fumes from a running automobile in a garage
- A blockage in a chimney or flue pipe
- The extremely dangerous practice of using barbecues, portable stoves or portable heaters inside
Effects of Carbon Monoxide
The danger of carbon monoxide is that this insidious gas will starve oxygen from the body. Carbon monoxide cannot be detected by the human nose or other senses.
The symptoms or carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to flu symptoms, as well as headaches, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, weakness, vision problems and loss of muscle control and motor coordination.
If a person is left untreated in a heavy accumulation of CO, unconsciousness and death can result. If the symptoms disappear when you are away from the house, suspect the presence of carbon monoxide. Symptoms may vary according to the individual.
Suspected Carbon Monoxide Contamination
If you suspect carbon monoxide contamination, get everyone outside immediately. Call the Fire Department by dialing 9-1-1 (using a telephone away from the suspected area) and report any medical symptoms, as well as the possibility of carbon monoxide contamination.
The Fire Department will respond immediately to provide medical care if needed, and to test the building for carbon monoxide contamination by the use of air sampling meters. Remember that carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can only be positively identified by sophisticated air sampling and detection equipment.