Is low-level carbon monoxide going unnoticed in your home?
According to the Journal of American Medical Association, carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant health risk and claims the lives of about 500 people each year. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that makes it difficult to detect in your home, yet with proper monitors and education, related accidental death and illnesses can be prevented. Minnesota is one of 25 states that require every single family home and every unit in multi-family buildings, have an approved and operational carbon monoxide alarm. But, just because you’ve got an alarm, how do you know your CO detector is working?
“People think that because they have a carbon monoxide detector, they’re protected,” says Keith Hill of Minnesota Air. “They don’t trigger when there’s low-level carbon monoxide.”
Hill says that manufacturers of CO detectors have “dumbed them down,” over the years because they were a nuisance for many families and in cases, local fire departments. For example, during winter months in states like Minnesota, people like to start their car in an attached garage to warm up the car before heading out. Often, the exhaust would trigger the carbon monoxide detector causing unnecessary frustration. Over the years, situations like this, caused many manufacturers to alter the alarm settings to avoid false alarms.
“Just because you’ve got a carbon monoxide alarm doesn’t mean you’re protected from low-levels,” adds Hill.
So, what can you do as a consumer? First, be sure to replace your carbon monoxide detector every 7-years. Jim Hunt, of Quality Heating and Air says the sensors have a limited life span and that over time, the detectors need replacing. He also adds, that the digital detectors are more accurate and allow you to monitor the levels of carbon monoxide in your home more closely.
Some homeowners place carbon monoxide detectors near their furnace or sources where they fear a leak may occur, which could trigger an unnecessary alarm. Instead, consider setting your alarms near common areas of your home – kitchen, family rooms and bedrooms.
There are several signs of carbon monoxide poisoning including: headaches, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath. The symptoms can also seem flu like. Experts say health risks from exposure to CO levels below 70 parts per million (PPM) are uncertain, but when levels are above 70 ppm symptoms may become more noticeable. If you feel as though you may suffer from low-levels of carbon monoxide in your home, consult a physician immediately and have an HVAC professional to inspect your system.
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