Imagine being in a glass room that is supplied with pure air adjusted to perfect quality levels that promote great health. That air would be incredibly refreshing, and our thought processes would be crystal clear.
Let’s also imagine that the same glass room has a second tube added to increase levels of carbon monoxide. The sources of carbon monoxide continue to increase and dilute that pure air.
Initially, few will realize they are being affected by carbon monoxide poisoning because they do not feel anything out of the ordinary at the lowest carbon monoxide levels other than maybe slight lightheadedness.
As the carbon monoxide levels increase, they will begin to feel some of the 50 signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. The final sign will be death.
Odds are great we all suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning at various levels. What are common carbon monoxide contributors? Some are not as obvious as others. For instance, one fairly innocent-looking source is a warm fire in a beautiful fireplace.
Another seemingly innocent source of carbon monoxide is a charcoal-fired grill or natural gas grill. That tasty-looking T-bone steak gets our attention. It smells great, but along with that tempting smell is the odorless carbon monoxide going into our lungs.
That T-bone steak dinner would not be complete without a baked potato, corn on the cob, and dinner rolls, so let’s fire up that natural gas stove. Is it vented properly to the outdoors or do the flue gasses go into the room? Have the oven and stovetop burners been cleaned to reduce carbon monoxide levels?
Candlelight dinners are romantic, but of course, that candle causes low-level carbon monoxide as it burns up the oxygen. So do the refreshing cigarettes or cigars after dinner!
We would be remiss if we failed to include the natural gas water heaters and furnaces as major potential carbon monoxide contributors. Both need regular maintenance to clean and adjust the burners. After maintenance, the carbon monoxide levels should be checked to verify safety.
Burner flames that flicker are cooler in temperature and naturally produce higher carbon monoxide levels. Cooler flue gas naturally fails to vent upwards into the flue pipe or chimney. It can fall out into the room as cooler air is brought into the home. This is called backdraft.
Backdraft from the water heater or furnace occurs under various conditions. One major contributor is whole-house attic fans. Others are fireplace dampers that are left open when not in use or even a door or window that is opened.
Another carbon monoxide contributor is from plugged chimneys or partially blocked flue pipes. Squirrels and birds can build nests in them or get stuck, unable to get out. Leaves and other debris can add to that blockage.
Carbon monoxide levels increase even with the storage of some cleaning fluids and paint removers that contain methylene chloride (dichloromethane).
The obvious contributors are gas-powered motors. Never operate a motor indoors. This includes warming up vehicles during cold weather even if a door is open to the outside.
Added all together, the carbon monoxide in that glass room can reach a fairly high level. The reality is there are no safe levels of carbon monoxide.
Ongoing exposure to carbon monoxide can cause long-term brain damage, resulting in complications such as severe memory loss, difficulty thinking, or other neurologic or psychiatric problems.
Because signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are not specific, a blood test is the most effective way to diagnose levels.
No home therapy is available for carbon monoxide poisoning. A short-term treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is high dosages of oxygen.
Carbon monoxide levels in the blood should be checked until they reach safe levels.
Since there are so many potential sources of carbon monoxide poisoning it’s important to install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home to get an audible alarm during high-level conditions.
If the alarm sounds evacuate the building. People who have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should seek emergency medical care by calling 911.
This article is dedicated to “Ann”, who thanked me for continuing to write carbon monoxide prevention articles. She unknowingly suffered long-term carbon monoxide exposure from a defective furnace and suffered the effects for a few years. Her treatment included increased oxygen levels while in a hyperbaric pressure chamber.
Thanks, Ann for her message to help others!