By Lina Younes
Recently I was reading the weekly community paper and a front page story caught my attention. “CO detector saves local family.” According to the article, the local fire department station responded to a carbon monoxide (CO) detector going off in the early morning hours. The homeowners were awakened by the CO detector that detected the presence of carbon monoxide in the home. When the firefighters arrived, they found unhealthy levels of the poisonous gas in the home as a result of a broken furnace exhaust pipe which was discharging the exhaust directly into the home. Had the family not had a CO detector, the outcome of this incident would have been very different.
Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisonings often occur as a result of people using generators in closed areas or using gas burning appliances improperly in the home. Using these appliances properly can prevent carbon monoxide poisonings. As we saw in this case, a CO detector quickly indicated unhealthy CO levels early, thus protecting the family.
Why are carbon monoxide detectors important? Well, carbon monoxide is an odorless toxic gas which you can’t see, taste or smell. Exposure to these toxic fumes at low levels can easily be mistaken for flu-like symptoms. Yet, at a higher concentration or a lengthier exposure, CO will be deadly. Detectors will quickly register unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide, thus setting an alarm. It is recommended to place these CO detectors just outside of sleeping areas so that they will alert families even while sleeping and help save them as we saw in this instance.
- What other steps can you take to prevent carbon monoxide from entering your home?
- Well, first and foremost, never use generators inside the home or enclosed areas
- Keep your gas appliances properly adjusted
- Install and use exhaust fans vented to the outdoors over gas stoves
- If you are going to burn wood in your home, do so properly.
By taking these simple steps, you’ll have a healthier indoor environment and protect your family. Stay safe.
About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.