Part two – carbon monoxide-the silent killer – Nighthawk KN-COPP-3 User Manual

Page 12

background image

Part Two – Carbon Monoxide-The Silent Killer

What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas
created when any fuel is burned – gasoline, propane, natural gas,
oil, wood, coal, and even tobacco. When combustion air is lim-
ited, more CO is produced. Serious problems can develop when
combustion by-products are not properly vented outside the

You’ve probably heard about carbon monoxide poisoning in the
news recently. It’s a problem receiving more attention because
groups like the American Lung Association and the Consumer
Product Safety Commission have made it a priority to warn the
public about the dangers of this deadly household poison.

What are the Effects of CO Exposure?
When you breathe carbon monoxide, it enters your bloodstream
through your lungs and attaches to red blood cells. These red
blood cells, called hemoglobin, carry oxygen throughout your
body. Carbon monoxide molecules attach to the red blood cells
200 times faster than oxygen, preventing the flow of oxygen to
your heart, brain and vital organs. As carbon monoxide accumu-
lates in your bloodstream, your body becomes starved for oxy-
gen. The amount of carbon monoxide in a person’s body can be
measured by a simple blood test, called a “carboxyhemoglobin
level” test .

The early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often
mistaken for the flu – headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea,
vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion.

Breathing very high concentrations of carbon monoxide can be
lethal in minutes. Breathing low concentrations over time is dan-
gerous, too. Long term exposure to low levels could cause per-
manent heart and brain damage.

Could Your Family be at Risk for CO Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths
in the United States. According to the Mayo Clinic, at least 10,000
Americans are affected by CO poisoning each year.

While anyone is susceptible, experts agree that unborn babies,
small children, senior citizens and people with heart or respira-
tory problems are especially vulnerable to CO and are at the
greatest risk for death or serious injury.

Where Does CO Come From?
Inside your home, appliances used for heating and cooking are
the most likely sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles running in
attached garages can also produce dangerous levels of carbon

A by-product of combustion, carbon monoxide can be a poten-
tial problem from a number of common sources – automobiles,
furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, charcoal grills,
gas ranges, space heaters and portable generators.

When these appliances are in good working condition with
proper ventilation, lethal carbon monoxide gas is vented out-
doors where it quickly disperses. But even the slightest malfunc-
tion or misuse of any of these sources can lead to a build-up of
carbon monoxide in your home that can become deadly before
you’d even know it’s there.

And you don’t have to have ancient appliances to have a prob-
lem. Today’s more energy-efficient, airtight home designs can
trap CO-polluted air inside where it can quickly build to lethal

What Can You do to Protect Your Family?
To be safe, know the possible sources of CO in your home. Keep
fuel-burning appliances and their chimneys and vents in good
working condition. Learn the early symptoms of exposure, and if
you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, move outside to fresh
air and get emergency help. A blood test can confirm that CO
caused the problem.

Your first line of defense is an annual inspection and regular
maintenance of your appliances. Contact a licensed contractor or
call your local utility company for assistance.

But remember, problems can begin after an inspection is over,
like a crack in a furnace heat exchanger, or a leak in a water
heater vent or a bird’s nest blocking a flue. Other sources are
nearly impossible to detect: even a change in the air pressure
outside can turn a normally safe situation deadly. That’s why you
need the 24-hour protection provided by a CO alarm.


810-1368 AC PP 12/99 8/24/00 2:06 PM Page 13