Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. If you suspect there’s a carbon monoxide leak in your home or workplace, the first thing to do is get out of the building as quickly as possible and call 911 from outside. Your second urgent priority should be to stop any fuel-burning appliances in the area where you think the leak may be coming from. It can be difficult to detect a carbon monoxide leak.
Many firefighters, police officers, and medical personnel have heard about carbon monoxide poisoning in connection with faulty heating equipment in homes. However, many people may not know that other sources of this fatal colorless, odorless gas can cause sudden illness or death, especially if they are located in one’s vehicle. Here are some other common sources of carbon monoxide:
1. Garages and parking spaces
Carbon monoxide poisoning often occurs when a person runs a motor vehicle inside a garage or enclosed parking space. This is because the engine will continue to run, even though there’s a lack of oxygen in the area from being closed up inside. If you’re sitting inside your car with the windows rolled up, it can take as little as ten minutes to succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning.
2. Small generators used outdoors
People who own small generators may think that they’re safe to use outdoors because they don’t have any fumes going into their homes. However, these types of machines emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide—even indoors—if not properly ventilated. If someone should fall asleep while using one of these generators, it could be deadly.
3. Truck exhaust
Mobile homes or recreational vehicles are often built with a special compartment to draw engine fumes out through the back of the vehicle so that they don’t enter the living area inside. However, if you have an improperly hooked-up system in your recreational vehicle, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can rise and affect those who are inside—even while they’re sleeping. If this happens, visit an urgent care center immediately. You and your family might need an urgent care X-ray or blood test to check for carbon monoxide poisoning.
4. Charcoal grills
Cooking over a charcoal grill is such a fun activity while out camping—and we enjoy it at home, too. However, it’s important to remember that all those grill fires can produce carbon monoxide as a result. Relocate your family and friends to another area away from where the charcoal grill is located so that they don’t inhale any CO gas.
5. Home heating systems
Heating systems are sometimes the source of deadly carbon monoxide emissions in your home or workplace, so it’s important to always have them serviced each fall before cold weather sets in. Always be sure that all vents are properly connected and functioning, and consider having a gas line added if you haven’t already done so for your convenience and energy savings. CO detectors should always be located within fifteen feet of wherever you sleep, and these need to be checked often to make sure they’re working properly.
If you smell an odor like natural gas while attempting to heat up the house or other space, get out immediately and call 911 from outside (or ask another person who is outside to send help). If you’re confident that the odor you’re smelling is coming from your furnace, it’s probably carbon monoxide. So vacate the premises right away.
6. Portable generators used during storm outages
Carbon monoxide can be produced by portable generators if they’re not used properly or if they emit dangerous levels of fumes. During any major storm, it’s good to bring these out and use them only when necessary to power certain appliances you might need. Never sleep near the generator either—because if it malfunctions or you aren’t aware of a potential CO problem, serious injury or death could occur in a very short time.
7. Charcoal grills used outdoors during a party
If a charcoal grill is used outdoors where people are gathered for fun and conversation this summer—which is highly recommended—special precautions must be taken so that carbon monoxide doesn’t enter the ventilation system from improperly vented vents. Exposed outdoor spaces such as porches would be ideal locations for enjoying time with friends and family while barbecuing your favorite foods.
If you’re having a large gathering and desire the convenience of having a lot of food prepared at once, purchase more than one grill and place them on opposite sides of the yard or opposite sides of your home. Always make sure there’s proper ventilation.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a deadly health concern. If you suspect that there might be CO problems in your area, it’s good to have the phone number of your local office handy so that you can call for immediate assistance. Understanding these causes and knowing how to spot a potential problem will go a long way toward preventing serious injury or even death from occurring due to a situation like this.