Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and potentially deadly. And it’s the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, prevents oxygen from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Without oxygen, of course, the body stops functioning properly, causing damage to tissues and the brain that can lead to disability and death. CO is produced by many common household and workplace appliances: gas water heaters, kerosene space heaters, gasoline and diesel power generators, and others; cigarette smoke, spray paint, and paint removers are also possible sources.
Because you can’t see it or smell it, be on the lookout for these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Mental confusion
- Impairment of vision and/or hearing
- Loss of consciousness
- Feeling chilled
Your first and best line of defense is a reliable CO detector. Check and change its batteries regularly, or install detectors that plug into a standard AC outlet. In addition, have your heating/air conditioning appliances serviced yearly to make sure they’re not leaking CO into your home or office. Avoid using any kind of fuel-burning appliance indoors.
Victims of CO exposure should seek medical attention immediately.