Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Do You Have A CO Detector In Your Home?

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.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire…

By Lina Younes

This past weekend my children decided to set up the Christmas tree.  At the end of the decorating event, they asked that we light up the chimney to sit back, have hot cocoa and roast marshmallows. Even though the evening was not that cold, we willingly complied because we wanted to share this special family moment around the open fire as the song goes.

While fireplaces may conjure fond memories of winters past, the fact is that you shouldn’t use just any type of wood or paper in a fireplace or wood-burning appliance. The key is to burn the right wood, the right way, in the right appliance. If you use the wrong type of wood and an unsafe appliance, the burning process may generate too much smoke with the wrong mix of gases and fine particles that may lead to serious health effects.

EPA has a partnership program, BurnWise, designed to create awareness on the proper materials and tools to protect your health, home and environment. It provides useful tips and advice in the selection of wood burning stoves and EPA Certified appliances. In addition to outreach materials, the website also has useful information on certain communities that have local ordinances to reduce wood smoke.

The proper use of the wood and these fuel-burning appliances will go a long way to protect your family and even prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for weekly tips on our BurnWise program. Send us your comments. We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as acting associate director for environmental education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Smell the Holidays

Today begins the countdown for holidays. That is, unless you haven’t already started counting down the days. Usually, it’s during this time, that I pull out my cookie sheets and apron and begin baking. It’s really the only time of year that I truly get into baking. I absolutely love making cookies. My favorite kind of cookie to make is spritz. Even though I might only make a couple dozen cookies, it seems like my house smells of the sweet aroma radiating from the oven for days.

While the weather outside is cold and windy, I can be assured that the heat from all of the baking inside my house keeps me warm. I love the smells of the holidays. Smells of baking, scented candles, and roasted pecans keep me inside for most of December. However, there may be one smell that you and your family may not be able to nor want to smell. I am talking about carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result.

Knowing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can help. At very moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, dizziness, confused, nauseated, or faint. If you do experience these symptoms, get fresh air immediately! Also, go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. It can be diagnosed by a simple blood test done shortly after exposure.

Here are some tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Make sure your fuel-burning appliances e.g. gas furnaces, gas ranges and ovens, fireplaces, and wood stoves inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season.
  • Make sure flues and chimneys are connected and in good condition without being blocked.
  • Don’t idle the car in a garage, even if the garage door is open.
  • Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.

By taking steps ahead of time, you and your family can enjoy all the wonderful smells of the holiday baking season. And the tastes that come with it as well!

About the author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.