CO Detection Is Always In Season

Each year an estimated 15,000 people in the United States are treated for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and 500 die from its effects. When I read about the death of Amanda Hansen, a 16-year-old West Seneca, N.Y., youth who died of CO poisoning,  it made me realize just how susceptible each of us can be to this insidious killer.

Most of us who come in contact with CO on a daily basis usually never know it. But one fateful night this past January Hansen’s path and the CO from a malfunctioning gas-fired boiler crossed, only she wasn’t as fortunate as most of us. As she slept in the basement of a friend’s house, high levels of CO eventually overtook her.

When mid-morning came, other family members upstairs awoke with a headache. But Hansen had already gone into cardiac arrest and never recovered. Since Hansen’s death, her father has crusaded to assure what happened to his daughter doesn’t befall others.

Companies specializing in residential burglar and fire alarm systems are best suited to sell, install and service CO detectors as part of an interconnected system.

“It’s our job as professionals to not only educate clients on security, but life safety, too,” says Nick Markowtz, owner of Markowitz Electric Protection of Verona, Pa. “This includes a working knowledge of the health issues, physical symptoms and common sources of CO.”

Let’s take a look at how installing security companies can help safeguard people from the peril of CO poisoning in homes and commercial environments.

[IMAGE]11869[/IMAGE]Symptoms and Sources

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), “Carbon monoxide  is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure” (

CO is the result of incomplete combustion of natural or propane gas, kerosene, petroleum (oil), and other materials. CO can also result when the fuel-to-oxygen mixture is wrong.

According to USEPA, other sources include: “leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline-powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke.”

In any of the applications cited above, when the area in which the occurrence takes place is relatively airtight, CO can build up, displacing oxygen in a room or even an entire building. This will ultimately affect the human body, causing carboxyhemoglobin to occur in the bloodstream. In this state, it’s CO that binds to the hemoglobin instead of oxygen. In extreme cases this can cause death by starving the body of oxygen.

Whether Weather’s Cold or Warm

Right about now you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about something we primarily worry about during cold weather. Well, although CO is a significant concern during cold months, it continues to pose a threat even in warm weather.

Gas-fired hot water tanks, lawnmowers, motor vehicles running in an attached garage and electric gasoline-fired generators are among the potentially hazardous sources for homeowners and the general public alike. In addition, CO is always a risk in commercial facilities equipped with indoor parking garages and other types of construction. Any site where combustible fuel is burned is suspect.

The bottom line is that no one is exempt from the adverse effects of CO, no matter what time of the year it happens to be. Although vigilance is needed where it comes to safeguarding family members, the use of effective CO detection in the home and workplace can minimize the chance of exposure and thus injury or death. 

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