January 23, 2019
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, deadly gas. This is why it is so dangerous. High concentrations can cause death within just a few minutes of breathing it while lower levels can make you sick.
When appliances are properly installed and maintained, they produce only small amounts of carbon monoxide. Anything that disrupts the burning process or results in a shortage of oxygen can increase carbon monoxide production. Wood, coal and charcoal fires always produce carbon monoxide, as do gasoline engines.
It is important to check and maintain these appliances because there could be things that happen without you knowing which may cause the appliances or fireplaces not to vent properly. These problems could include: chimneys being plugged by birds’ nests or tree leaves, snow build-up, deteriorating chimney, chimneys too short to vent correctly, appliances with no venting system, house air flow patterns and downdrafting.
How do you reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning? First, install carbon monoxide detectors. Be sure to buy detectors that meet American Gas Association or Underwriters Laboratories standards. NOTE: The sensor cell inside the detector does not last forever—look for an expiration date—even at the time of purchase. You don’t want to be buying one that has sat on a shelf for a few years and find out after you bought it that it has expired or will shortly thereafter. If the detector is battery operated, be sure to test monthly, just like your smoke detectors. Other things to do to protect you and your family is to have your heating system inspected and make any necessary repairs or changes to the system.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to flu symptoms. Mild exposure produces slight headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Extreme exposure produces convulsions, unconsciousness, heart and lung failure, brain damage and possible death. Because these symptoms are similar to many illnesses, carbon monoxide poisoning is often misdiagnosed. If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, immediately get to fresh air outside and call for medical assistance. It takes many hours, even days, for carbon monoxide to be eliminated from the body unassisted. During this time, additional damage can occur. Continual exposure can cause permanent brain, nerve or heart damage.
Additional information is available by contacting Janell at the Chouteau County Extension Office at 622-3036, firstname.lastname@example.org or in the Chouteau County Courthouse at 1308 Franklin St in Fort Benton.
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