West Valley Medical Center - November 12, 2015

Quiz: Do You Have A Carbon Monoxide Detector in your Home?

A) Yes, of course!

B) Umm, I keep meaning to get one of those

C) No, but you don't really need one, right?

D) Huh? You mean like a smoke detector?

In a perfect world, every single family in our community would answer A. But the honest answer for an overwhelming 70 percent of Americans is B, C or D. Even in states like North Carolina, where carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory in every home, only about 68 percent of families actually have one installed.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

You may be asking yourself, “What's the big deal? I've gone without one for this long and I'm fine.” We understand how tempting that line of thought can be, but here's why carbon monoxide is a really big deal:

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that's produced when carbon materials like gasoline, propane, coal and wood don't burn completely. So, if you have a gas or wood fireplace, gas appliances or an attached garage (where maybe you warm up your car on cold mornings), your family is at risk for CO exposure.

CO is poisonous to humans and exposure to it can be fatal. It kills about 400 Americans each year and puts about 20,000 to 30,000 in the emergency room, which is obviously a big problem. The even bigger problem? Symptoms of CO poisoning are relatively non-specific: headache, dizziness, nausea. Sounds a lot like the flu, right? Or a migraine? In fact, if you type those symptoms into WebMD, you get more than 100 possible illnesses and disorders. In short: even if you did begin to have symptoms, you would probably dismiss them as something else.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Exposure in your Home

Ready for the good news? CO poisoning is preventable. Here are a few recommendations from our friends at the CDC for steps you can take to protect your family, pets and home:

  • Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • When you buy gas appliances, look for the seal of a national testing agency, like Underwriters' Laboratories.
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Never leave your vehicle's engine running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Never use a gas range, portable propane stove or charcoal grill for indoor heating.

More good news? CO detectors aren't expensive. A basic unit will run you about $25 or $30 at your local hardware store. Although, if you're a techie, there are $100+ models that sync with your smartphone and provide real-time monitoring of the CO levels in your home. Probably not necessary, but kind of cool.

If you don't have $25 to spare right now (and, hey, we've all been there), check with your local fire department or your local American Red Cross chapter. Government agencies, like FEMA, periodically distribute grant money for just this purpose, so you may be able to have one installed by a professional at no cost you.

Learn More About Winter Safety

Join us for a free seminar on Nov. 19 and find out more about common winter emergencies and what you can do to prevent them. Sponsored by Canyon County Paramedics, Caldwell Fire Department and West Valley Medical Center.

Register for This Class