Bitter cold weather can bring more than just frosty mornings and runny noses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the odorless predator–carbon monoxide, also known as CO–sends more than 15,000 people to the hospital each year.
Because you can not see it, smell it or taste it, you or your loved ones could be exposed to CO without even knowing it. The symptoms–headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath–are often mistaken for the flu.
"Each day, first responders are called upon to help people who have unknowingly been exposed to carbon monoxide and are suffering from CO poisoning," says James Shannon, president and chief executive officer of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). "It is vital for people to learn how to keep themselves and their families safe from CO before they are exposed to it. When it reaches a dangerous level, its effects may leave them unable to make that life-saving call for help."
Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety certification organization, and the NFPA urge families to INSPECT, PROTECT and DETECT when it comes to CO safety this winter:
1. Have a qualified technician INSPECT fuel-burning appliances once a year.
- Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters and stoves require yearly maintenance. Over time, components can become damaged or deteriorate. A qualified technician can identify and repair problems with your fuel-burning appliances.
2. PROTECT your home by purchasing and installing a CO alarm.
- Purchase and install UL-Listed CO alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement and any other locations required by applicable laws; be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully before installing the alarm.
-If you already have CO alarms installed in your home, make sure to test them monthly and replace the battery at least once a year.
3. Be prepared should your CO alarm DETECT a problem.
-If your alarm sounds, immediately open windows and doors for ventilation.
-If anyone in the home is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning, immediately evacuate the house, call the fire department and seek medical attention.
-Be alert to some of the danger signs that signal a CO problem. This includes: Streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel-burning appliances, moisture collecting on the windows and walls of furnace rooms and fallen soot from the fireplace or small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney.
"A CO alarm should not be confused with a smoke alarm," says John Drengenberg, manager of Consumer Affairs for UL. "A smoke alarm tells you to get out immediately. A CO alarm warns of a potential poisoning risk, usually long before symptoms are apparent, which allows you adequate time to get help. You need both life-safety devices in your home.
To learn more about the potential dangers of CO and how to keep your family safe, visit: www.ul.com/newsroom.