Lauren Wynn
Georgia Farm Bureau

It's odorless, tasteless, colorless and poisonous. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas produced by burning any fuel. When fuel-burning appliances are not operating properly or are not ventilated, the amount of CO in the air can rise to dangerous levels.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. This gas decreases the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to the brain and other vital organs.

Low concentrations of CO can produce symptoms similar to the flu but without the fever. These symptoms include dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea and irregular breathing.

Higher concentrations of CO can lead to a severe headache, confusion, dizziness, fainting, impaired vision and or hearing. Extreme concentrations of CO can cause unconsciousness or death.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should move to fresh air immediately. If you find someone who is unconscious in an enclosed area where there might be high concentrations of CO, make sure that you don't become a victim. Open all the doors and windows to get maximum ventilation.

If breathing has stopped, artificial respiration must be applied immediately. Rest is essential for anyone who has been overcome by CO.

On the farm, gasoline-powered pressure washers are used for routine cleanup. The machines should be placed outside and the hoses run into the building. If this isn't practical, the exhaust fumes should be vented to the out-of-doors to prevent CO poisoning.

Potential sources of carbon monoxide around the home include auto exhaust fumes in a closed garage, a charcoal or gas grill in an enclosed area, an unvented space heater, and a corroded or disconnected gas water heater vent pipe. You can install a CO detector for added safety, but it must meet the requirements of UL 2034.

There are some external signs of high levels of CO in a building. You should look for rusting or water streaking on a vent or chimney, sooting, loose masonry on chimney, or moisture inside of windows. What you can't see are the internal malfunctioning components of an appliance, improper burner adjustment, or hidden blockage in chimneys. A trained service technician can help you detect and correct these problems.

Even if you can't see, smell, or taste it, carbon monoxide could be behind that closed door.


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Reviewed for NASD: 04/2002