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Mayor Virg Bernero
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Carbon Monoxide Poisioning

What is carbon monoxide?  

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless deadly gas. Because you can't see it, taste or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's there. 

Who is at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning? 

Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Medical experts believe, however, that individuals with greater oxygen requirements such as unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with coronary or respiratory problems are at greater risk.

What makes carbon monoxide so dangerous? 

The great danger of carbon monoxide is its attraction to hemoglobin in the bloodstream. When inhaled, carbon monoxide bonds with hemoglobin in the blood, displacing the oxygen which cells need to function. When CO is present in the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood, forming a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Carboxyhemoglobin causes symptoms similar to the flu, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. As levels of COHb increase vomiting, loss of consciousness and eventually brain damage or death can result.

* Source: Journal of American Medical Assn.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion, present whenever fuel is burned. It is produced by common home appliances, such as gas or oil furnaces, clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, water heaters or un-vented space heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills and wood burning stoves. Fumes from automobiles also contain carbon monoxide and can enter a home through walls or doorways if a car is left running in an attached garage.

All of these sources can contribute to a CO problem in the home. If a home is vented properly and is free from appliance malfunctions, air pressure fluctuations or airway; venting or chimney blockages, carbon monoxide will most likely be safely vented to the out side. But energy efficient insulation meant to keep warm air in during winter months and cool air in during summer months could cause carbon monoxide to be trapped inside.

Furnace heat exchangers can crack, vents and chimneys can become blocked, disconnected or corroded. Inadequate air supply for combustion appliances can cause conditions known as down drafting or reverse stacking, which force CO contaminated air back into the home.

How can I guard my family from carbon monoxide poisoning?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends installing at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near the sleeping area. A detector on every level and in every bedroom provides extra protection. Remember, a carbon monoxide detector is a purchase that could help save your life. Select an Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) listed detector. For an extra margin of safety, chose a self powered, extra sensitive unit that responds to lower levels of carbon monoxide and protects even during a power outage. In addition to installing carbon monoxide detectors, have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.

What do I do if my Carbon Monoxide detector alarms?
  • Get every one, including your self out of the house.
  • If anyone is feeling ill, acting strange, or unconscious Call 911 Immediately.
  • Call your local gas company or fire department and tell them you have a carbon monoxide detector alarm.

Read more about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Randy Talifarro
Fire Chief
120 E. Shiawassee
Lansing, MI 48933

Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.