A few weeks ago I was reading an older article about a family killed in their sleep by carbon monoxide poisoning. Just like that, a family was wiped out overnight because of a silent killer in their home, one that could be present in any of our homes at any given moment. Without a carbon monoxide detector to alert them, they had no idea that the pilot light had gone out on their ancient heater and gas was filling their home; they just never woke up.
While it was an incredibly sad story to read, it reminded me to check on my own detector in my house, which I then found to be broken and not working at all. I haven’t the slightest idea how long it had been out of commission, but I sure am glad I read that article and then walked over to check my unit. It wasn’t the batteries, which were fine, but rather the unit itself had gone bad at some point — something they obviously don’t have an alert/alarm for. So I headed out to the store right away and picked up a brand new plug-in/battery back-up hybrid carbon monoxide detector for right around $30, and I think it’s the best $30 I have spent in a very, very long time.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas which is the leading cause of fatal air poisoning in many countries around the world and concentrations as low as 667 ppm may cause up to 50% of the body’s hemoglobin to convert to carboxyhemoglobin, resulting in seizure, coma, and fatality. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, vomiting, nausea, and a feeling of dizziness, while victims can also exhibit signs of confusion and disorientation. CO poisoning accounts for about 170 deaths in the United States every year, mostly from malfunctioning furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters. While that number may seem small at first glance, that’s 170 deaths that were probably completely avoidable and preventable by just having a $30 CO detector in the home. That’s a tiny financial investment in something that could save you or your family’s life. A family of four would spend more than that on fake food and sugary drinks eating out at McDonald’s!
After buying a detector, the most important thing if you or a family member is a victim of CO poisoning is to remember to get out of the house/building and call for help ASAP. Do not stick around or try to save pets or anything else — just get out to fresh air. These tips from Carbon Monoxide Kills are the four steps which should be taken upon discovery of a CO victim:
- Move the victim(s) to fresh air, this will only relieve immediate symptoms of acute poisoning, remember if you have chronic poisoning that is low level and that has gone on for some time your deteriation may be gradual so it could be some time before you notice.
- Activate the Fire/Emergency Medical Service System, if victim(s) are experiencing any symptoms, if the fire department is called and they have the equipment ask them to record the CO PPM (parts per million of carbon monoxide in the air).
- Monitor for respiratory problems, get a COHb test to check for carbon monoxide levels in the blood.
- Ventilate the affected area
We all know it is a no-brainer to have smoke detectors in our homes; they have become as commonplace as refrigerators and microwave ovens. But not everyone has a carbon monoxide detector yet, and this needs to change. There is absolutely no excuse for not spending a measly $30 on something which could save the lives of those living in your home. So please, head out to your local store which sells these types of units and pick up at least one for your home. I only need one for my house as it is so small; bigger spaces may require a few of them in order effectively alert you to any leaking carbon monoxide. And if your local stores are too expensive for you to get the plug-in/battery back-up kind that I recommend, check out a few of these at Amazon.com:
- First Alert CO615 Carbon Monoxide Plug-In Alarm with Battery Backup and Digital Display
- Kidde KN-COPP-3 Nighthawk Plug-In Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Battery Backup and Digital Display
- Kidde KN-COB-LCB-A Tamper Resistant Plug-In Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Battery Backup
There is no reason not to have CO detectors in your home to protect you and your family. For $20-$30 each, it could be the best investment you make this year — or ever.