If you take a closer look at your smoke detector, you’ll hopefully notice that it says “smoke and carbon monoxide detector.” If it doesn’t, then you should add a carbon monoxide detector in your home immediately. While both fires and carbon monoxide can be deadly, the latter is particularly dangerous because it’s often undetectable. Carbon monoxide doesn’t come with the obvious signs a fire does, like visible smoke or a scent, so you want to do everything you can to prevent a horrible disaster from happening.
Not convinced you need to invest in a carbon monoxide detector just yet? Read up on these 9 shocking facts and you might just change your mind.
1. It’s the most fatal poison.
Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of death by poisoning in the United States. In fact, each year over 500 people die in the U.S. due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Because this substance can quickly cause a person to lose consciousness, those affected may not be able to bring themselves to a hospital or call for help.
2. Death can occur in as quickly as three minutes.
If the levels of carbon monoxide are high enough, death can occur within three minutes of exposure – your air only has to have a 1.28 percent concentration of carbon monoxide for this to happen. Even a 0.08 percent concentration can cause convulsions.
3. The most dangerous appliances are fuel-burning.
The majority of carbon monoxide poisonings are caused by fuel-burning sources. These include portable space heaters, gas grills used inside or in a partially covered area, malfunctioning water heaters or furnaces or non-electric kitchen ranges. Portable generators are especially dangerous and can produce more carbon monoxide than a running car.
4. It can take months to recover from acute poisoning.
In some cases, people can take several months to recover from acute carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms such as short-term memory loss, speech impairment, depression and an unusual gait can exist for months after exposure.
5. Your CO detector may be broken.
Just because the test button on your carbon monoxide detector is still beeping doesn’t mean it is working. The test button only checks the battery level on your detector, but the actual element that detects carbon monoxide has a lifespan of about six years. It’s better to simply buy a new carbon monoxide detector every five years than try to recalibrate your old one, since recalibrating would involve exposing the device to a small amount of carbon monoxide.
6. Your detector may not be strong enough.
Most carbon monoxide detectors do not go off until they detect 50 to 70 per million parts of air (ppm). But headaches and dizziness can occur at just 35 ppm. Check the strength of your detector and try to find one that picks up even smaller levels of this deadly element.
7. Elderly men are the most affected demographic.
Men over the age of 65 are hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning more than any other demographic. Because concurring health problems can make carbon monoxide exposure immeasurably more dangerous, the elderly are the most vulnerable to severe complications post-exposure.
8. December and January are the most dangerous months.
December and January see the most hospitalizations due to carbon monoxide poisoning. These are also the months when people are most prone to running space heaters, furnaces and other heating elements within closed spaces. Make sure to open windows and provide plenty of oxygen flow when using heating elements. Never run a furnace or other heating element in a small, enclosed area like a basement or closet.
9. It’s the silent killer in cars.
Most people know that leaving a car running inside a garage or other enclosed area can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. But what you may not know is that a blocked exhaust pipe can cause carbon monoxide to leak inside of a vehicle, even when driving in the open air. Have your exhaust pipe checked regularly, especially during the fall and winter when snow and debris can clog it.
Make sure your carbon monoxide detector is in working order. Even if you take the right precautions, you can never be too careful when it comes to this deadly poison.