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Carbon Monoxide Can Be Deadly--Early Detection Monitors Make It Easy to Protect
By Debra Lynn Dadd
If you burn gas, kerosene, or wood in your home to produce heat for cooking
or warmth, you need to monitor the level of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide
is odorless and can easily build up to dangerous levels. Ordinary carbon
monoxide detectors don't sound an alarm until certain levels of carbon monoxide
accumulate in the air. New monitors show the amount of carbon dioxide in
the air at any given time, so you can take action well before levels reach
the danger zone.
HOW CARBON MONOXIDE GETS INTO THE AIR IN YOUR HOME
Carbon monoxide is the major toxic combustion by-product that is created
when gas, kerosene, or wood is burned to produce heat for cooking or warmth.
Other combustion by-products include formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur
dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, nitric acid, and vapors from various organic
Carbon monoxide and other combustion by-products are produced when fuels
do not burn completely. All fuel-burning appliances need air for the fuel
to burn efficiently. When a generous supply of fresh air is available and
the fuel is burning properly, there is little danger of poisoning. But when
there is inadequate ventilation or the appliance is not operating properly,
carbon monoxide is produced and can gradually overcome and even kill an
Many years before I was born, my grandmother almost died from carbon monoxide
seeping from her gas furnace. It was just by chance that someone walked in
and saved her.
SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
It is possible to identify symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning if you know
what to look for. Your body will tell you if there is too much carbon monoxide
in your home. Different concentrations of carbon monoxide and different exposure
times cause different symptoms.
Mild exposures to carbon monoxide are often confused with the flu. Symptoms
include sleepiness, slight headache, dizziness, flushed skin, disorientation,
abnormal reflexes, blurred vision, irritablity, slight nausea, fatigue, and
an inability to concentrate.
As exposure continues, mild symptoms turn into severe throbbing headache,
drowsiness, confusion, shortness of breath, vomiting, and an accelerated
heart rate. Unconsciousness and convulsions are signs that cardio respiratory
failure and death are near.
If you or anyone in your family experiences flu-like symptoms and you burn
gas, kerosene or wood in your home, you should immediately evaluate if it
is, in fact, early signs of carbon monoxide exposure.
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS AND ALARMS
There are two types of devices that can warn you about carbon monoxide levels
in your home.
Carbon monoxide detectors sound an alarm like a smoke detector when carbon
monoxide reaches dangerous levels. These are relatively inexpensive, but,
like a smoke detector, only warn you when carbon monoxide in your home has
already reached a level that is approaching dangerous.
Carbon monoxide monitors give you an ongoing numerical reading of the current
level of carbon monoxide, and sound an alarm when concentrations approach
dangerous levels. These cost around $50, but show you what the actual carbon
monoxide concentration is at any given time. With a monitor, you can catch
carbon monoxide leaks at low levels, and rest assured that your family is
TO ELIMINATE THE THREAT OF CARBON MONOXIDE...
Electric appliances do not emit combustion by-products under normal use.
If you prefer to use gas, propane, or wood, make sure appliances are
well-adjusted for a clean burn and provide enough ventilation for combustion
by-products to escape.
For online sources of carbon monoxide monitors, visit
Hailed as "The Queen of Green" by the New York Times, Debra Lynn Dadd has
been a leading consumer advocate for products and lifestyle choices that
are better for health and the environment since 1982. Visit her website at
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of nontoxic, natural and earthwise products.