Is Your Family Safe? Carbon Monoxide- The Silent Killer!

As we speed into 2016, nearly every vehicle on the road is equipped with technologies we never dreamed of, including low emission systems, high tech keyless ignitions and remote starters for the convenience and safety of the driver. Although these options are useful for the consumer, Safe Check Home Inspections is warning our clients to the dangers of an accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning as a result of a started vehicle in a garage attached to the home. This can occur, whether it be from a warming car to an inadvertent car start from a remote starter. Even with low emissions, a running automobile in a closed garage could prove deadly to you and your family. The truly scary part is- it comes quickly and silently! Something as simple as properly placed and maintained carbon monoxide detectors and a self-closing hinge installed on the interior door leading to the garage could drastically reduce the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning to the occupants of a home.

What is CO and Why is it Poisonous?

co2 hemoglobin

Figure 1 Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media Inc.

Carbon monoxide gas, also known as CO, is produced when ordinary fuels burn, for example kerosene, wood, propane, natural gas, charcoal and lastly, gasoline that is burned by internal combustion engines used in automobiles and equipment used today. According to National Capital Poison Center, Carbon monoxide is a silent killer; it is colorless and odorless. Like the grim reaper, when it comes lurking, you are in real danger of demise. As seen in (“CO Poisoning,” 2016, figure 1), NCPC explains when carbon monoxide is inhaled it prevents blood cells from carrying oxygen by replacing the oxygen carrying capability with C0. This starves vital organs such as the brain, heart and other vital organs of oxygen causing them to suffer and fail rapidly. Death can occur quickly at high levels of CO, but even lower levels for a long period of time can cause long-last effects and even permanent brain damage (“Silent Killer,” 2012-16, para. 1).

What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Symptoms can often be hard to detect and have a vague presentation. eMedicine Health warns us that the early onset of symptoms can include headache, dizziness, and nausea.(Healthwise, 1995-2014, para. 3). If the effected individual does not vacate a carbon monoxide concentrated area, the symptoms can worsen and the onset problems can increase rapidly. As more cells take on Co2, these can include confusion and drowsiness, fast breathing, fast heartbeat or chest pain, vision problems and even seizures. This is where a sleeping individual can be in real trouble, as the symptoms can progress without knowledge causing permanent brain damage or even death. Remember, these symptoms start off similar to flu, food poisoning, viral infections.  It is extremely important to open the doors and windows, turn off all gas appliances and vacate the effected area immediately and move quickly to fresh outside air if you or someone you are with is experiencing these symptoms. You should seek medical attention and alert your doctor that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and they can perform a simple blood test to confirm.

Figure 2 Symptoms of Co2 poisoning

Figure 2 Symptoms of Co2 poisoning

Is it Safe to Warm up a Car in a Garage?

Many ask is it safe to warm up a vehicle in a garage? The answer is without a doubt, a definite no. In fact, exclaims T.H. Greiner, Ph.D., P.E,
“It is so dangerous that it must NEVER be done, even for a short time. The extremely high concentrations of carbon monoxide produced by an engine can raise CO concentrations in a closed building so quickly that a person may collapse before they even realize there is a problem. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control found that CO concentrations reach the Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) concentration of 1,200 parts per million (ppm) in only 7 minutes when a small 5 horsepower gasoline engine is run in a 10,000 cubic foot room. Iowa State University investigated the death of two men in a car wash. Operation of their poorly tuned truck in a closed car wash raised CO concentrations to the immediately dangerous concentration of 1200 ppm in less than 8 minutes. After only 22 minutes concentrations reached 3500 ppm. The two men had died without being able to move toward the outside door. Survivors of similar occurrences say they did not realize they were being poisoning, became dizzy, then quickly collapsed, and were unable to move toward the door” (Greiner, 1998, para. 2).

What Can Be Done to Help Keep Your Family Safe?

Safe Check Home Inspections takes the safety of our clients very seriously. Your family’s safety is our number one priority. We recommend a few simple ways to decrease the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning. The first is simply to keep your car keys out of your pocket and store them on a hook above the reach of children. secondly, install Smoke/CO Detectors on every floor of the home and make sure they are properly maintained. Installation locations vary by manufacturer. Manufacturers’ recommendations differ to a certain degree based on research conducted with each one’s specific detector. Therefore, make sure to read the provided installation manual for each detector before installing.

Figure 3 The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door and there should be one near or over any attached garage.

Figure 3 The International Association of Fire Chiefs recommend a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of your home, including the basement. A detector should be located within 10 feet of each bedroom door and there should be one near or over any attached garage.

Lastly, we recommend something as simple as a spring-loaded hinge to be installed on the interior door leading from the garage. About 99% of the homes that we inspect currently do not have a self-closing hinge installed. This simple device cannot prevent a car from accidentally be started in a garage, but it can alleviate the chance of a door being accidentally left open and allowing an unobstructed path of CO into the home.

Employing these safety tips can save the life of you and your loved ones by decreasing the chances of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. Be Safe, Not Sorry! Hire Safe Check Home Inspections to do a thorough evaluation of your gas appliances and the home that surrounds them.

If you have any questions, Please feel free to call us anytime.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning . (2016). Retrieved from https://uvahealth.com/services/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/carbon-monoxide-poisoning
Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Killer. (2012-16). Retrieved from http://www.poison.org/articles/2007-dec/carbon-monoxide
Greiner, Ph.D., P.E, T. H. (1998). Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Garages. Retrieved from http://www.abe.iastate.edu/extension-and-outreach/carbon-monoxide-poisoning-garages-aen-207/
Healthwise (1995-2014). Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Retrieved from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/carbon_monoxide_poisoning-http://www.emedicinehealth.com/carbon_monoxide_poisoning-health/article_em.htm