Carbon Monoxide: Deadly in enclosed rooms
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SACRAMENTO - The Air Resources Board, CAL FIRE - Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Department of Public Health are urging Californians to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning by having detectors installed and gas appliances inspected.
A new state law effective just this summer requires every California home with an attached garage or gas-using appliance to have an operational carbon-monoxide sensor installed. Carbon monoxide poisoning can strike wherever combustion occurs in enclosed areas, including: homes, recreational vehicles, cabins, tents and houseboats. Vigilance is the key to avoiding tragedy.
"Carbon monoxide deaths are preventable,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “Having the required alarms and your gas-using appliances inspected are simple steps that will protect you and your family.”
Each year, about 30 Californians die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and over 600 others go to emergency rooms for non-lethal exposures. Warning signs of exposure are headache, drowsiness, nausea and inability to concentrate; these symptoms will go away when the affected person is removed from the area and given fresh air.
“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, claiming too many lives each year,” said Acting State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover, CAL FIRE. “Having a CO detector is a small investment that really can help save your life and the lives of your family.”
More than half of all carbon monoxide poisoning deaths are from malfunctioning or improperly vented gas appliances in homes. The others come from a variety of combustion sources including: BBQs, kerosene space heaters, generators and fireplaces.
“Carbon monoxide inhibits the blood's ability to carry oxygen to body tissues including vital organs such as the heart and brain,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health. “It is especially dangerous for young children and individuals with heart disease, so it is crucial that people take preventative measures such as having a properly working carbon monoxide detector.”
ARB recommends that people:
- Properly use and maintain appliances that produce a flame such as furnaces and gas and propane space heaters;
- Never use gas ovens to heat the home;
- Never use kerosene or propane space heaters, charcoal grills, barbecues, or unvented gas logs indoors;
- Use caution when heating with propane appliances, older wall or floor gas furnaces and fireplaces;
- Obtain annual check-ups of all gas appliances by a qualified professional;
- Use state fire-marshal approved carbon monoxide detectors that sound an alarm;
- Place emergency generators outdoors away from windows and doors preventing fumes from entering the home; and,
- Be especially careful with appliances in recreational vehicles, cabins and houseboats, and use carbon monoxide detectors specifically made for these locations.
In addition, do not to operate cars or other internal combustion engines in enclosed spaces or attached garages. A third of carbon monoxide poisoning deaths are the result of accidental exposure from vehicles running in closed garages.
ARB data show that outdoor carbon-monoxide levels rise throughout California between the months of November and March because of the lack breezes which would eliminate stagnant weather conditions. These levels have been measured in covered garages and at busy intersections. Rising levels of outdoor carbon monoxide may generate health complaints in sensitive people.
For more information on the state law requiring the installation of sensors in homes, contact the California Housing and Community Development at 916-445-9471.
For more information on indoor combustion pollutants, see our indoor air quality guideline entitled "Combustion Pollutants in Your Home" at: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/combustf.htm.