Community Interest

The Silent Killer

 Submitted by New Melle Fire Protection District

Carbon Monoxide kills more than 400 people annually in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  An additional 20,000 end up needing a visit to the emergency room, and over 4,000 need hospitalization. So, as it turns colder, we must take extra precautions.

Colder weather means that we will be spending more time indoors, using various methods for heat to be comfortable in our homes and businesses. Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion and is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned. One of the reasons so many people can be subject to poisoning and suffer illness or death is because carbon monoxide is difficult to detect. It is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that, without a detector, can have fatal consequences within minutes depending on the concentration released into in the air we are breathing. A high level can cause death within five minutes. Lower levels will require a longer period of time to affect the body.

Carbon Monoxide is produced in several items used around the home such as stoves, grills, fireplaces, portable generators or small engines, furnaces, and running vehicles. During the winter months we see more of these poisonings due to the use of heating systems and residents warming up their cars in or near the garage. It is extremely important to have a method of detection in every home to increase the chances of identifying a problem before it becomes hazardous.

A carbon monoxide detector should have a battery or a battery back-up to ensure its operation in a power outage and be placed on every level of the home. One should be placed in a hallway near the bedrooms of the home so that it may be heard if it alarms while residents are sleeping.  Carbon monoxide has a molecular weight very close to that of the air we breathe so it travels throughout the home or business in no specific pathway. This is unlike propane that will settle in lower areas, or natural gas that will rise to higher areas of the home or business.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, confusion, and a late sign would be reddening of the skin. When an alarm sounds, immediately go outside to fresh air and call 911. Do not open windows or doors to ventilate prior to the arrival of the Fire Department. Keeping the building secured allows for confirmation of an elevated level and further investigation to a cause.

Some safety tips:

  • Have your gas furnace, water heater, or any other gas appliances serviced annually.
  • Have your chimney or fireplace checked and cleaned annually.
  • Never use a generator or operate a small engine in your home or enclosed space.
  •  Never run a car in an attached garage.
If you have any questions about carbon monoxide in your home or business, or questions about what type of detector to purchase or where to place it, please call the New Melle Fire Protection District office at 636-828-5528. Your health and safety are important to us, and Putting Community F.I.R.S.T. is our mission. Have a safe and joyous holiday season!