Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas produced as a byproduct of combustion – think automobiles, fireplaces, space heaters, and grills. Anything that burns fuel has the potential to release lethal fumes, putting you and your family in danger. The winter months typically see heightened CO hazards due to people using different heating sources in the home.
What is carbon monoxide?
According to OSHA, CO is odorless, colorless, has no taste, and is toxic. Carbon monoxide is harmful when inhaled “because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overcome you in minutes without warning — causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate.”
Around the home or workplace, you may find sources of carbon monoxide from:
- Automobile exhaust
- Gas stoves or dryers
- Space heaters (oil or propane)
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Some people do not experience any symptoms; they simply become unconscious and may die in their sleep. CO poisoning, unfortunately, works extremely quickly. However, there are signs to look out for:
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or vertigo
Who is most at risk for CO poisoning?
Although everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, some types of jobs put you more at risk. These can include:
- Chemical workers
- Longshore workers
- Police officers and traffic workers
- Tollbooth attendants
Properly vent and maintain fuel-burning appliances
The Minnesota Department of Health advises that it is important to know what appliances in your home are fuel-burning and make sure that they are maintained properly. All of these appliances should be vented to the outside. You should have your fuel-burning appliances (like your furnace, for example) checked by a qualified heating contractor every year to look for potential problems. It is also a good idea to know the signs of a potential CO problem:
- Streaks of soot around fuel-burning appliances, or fallen soot in a fireplace
- Absence of an upward draft in your chimney
- Excess moisture and condensation on windows, walls and cold surfaces
- Rusting on flue pipes or appliance jacks
- Orange or yellow flame in combustion appliances (the flame should be blue)
- Damaged or discolored bricks at the top of the chimney
Never use appliances intended for outdoor use inside. Examples include barbecue grills, camp stoves, portable generators, or gas-powered lawn equipment. Do not use an oven to heat your home. Not only is it a fire risk, it is also a carbon monoxide hazard. Do not run or idle your vehicle in an attached garage. Instead, back your vehicle out right away. Check that your vehicle’s exhaust pipe is not blocked, for example, by snow during the winter.
The importance of carbon monoxide detectors
The CDC reports that every year, about 430 people die from accidental CO poisoning and approximately 50,000 others visit the emergency room for poisoning injuries. They also state that CO poisoning is entirely preventable.
You can take certain steps at home and at work to decrease your risk of CO poisoning. Alabama passed a law in 2012 mandating that all newly constructed one- and two-family dwellings must have CO detectors in the immediate vicinity outside of each sleeping area.
Safety.com discusses tips for keeping your CO detectors in good working order as well as how to install them correctly.
- First, CO detectors should not be installed on the ceiling like smoke detectors. CO does not rise, but rather blends with the regular air in the home. Your carbon monoxide alarm should be installed around knee height, or according to the detector’s instructions.
- Perform monthly checks on your CO detector. Most devices have a “test” function that you can find out how to use in the instruction manual.
- Keep your CO detector free of dust, dirt and pet dander. Dust and particles can stop the device from working effectively, or at all.
- Listen for low-battery alerts and beeps. Your detector will usually make a loud alarm or beeping noise when it needs a new battery. Safety.com also recommends changing the battery when you change the batteries in your smoke detector.
If you or a loved one experience injury from carbon monoxide poisoning, due to a defective product, faulty alarm, or someone’s dangerous property, the attorneys at Martin & Helms can help. We will protect your right to compensation and determine who or what is responsible for your damages and losses.
To schedule your free consultation in our Huntsville or Decatur office call 256-539-1990 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form. Cases are handled on a contingency fee basis so there is no cost to you unless we win your case. We serve clients in North Alabama including Huntsville, Decatur, Athens, and Madison.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney is an important step in building a better future. You deserve a lawyer who works one-on-one with you, and who can develop a plan for you to move forward. When you choose Martin & Helms, you get Clay Martin and Tara Helms: experienced, compassionate counselors who put your best interests first. We invite you to read more about us.