Alright, so you’ve finally secured your house and you’re ready to play king of the castle. No one will get into your house with the security system, night vision cameras and sensor lights you’ve had set up to be monitored on your TV and laptop whenever you want it. Yes sir, you’re perfectly prepared against any person who has the gumption to challenge you. But what about the threat that’s been slowly building up in your house unbeknownst to you?
No, I’m not talking about an army of ninjas, or a poltergeist, but rather the lamest of all deadly invaders in homes, carbon monoxide (CO). You’ve probably heard of it before on the news sensationalized into something laughable like “the silent, but deadly killer,” but the dangers of carbon monoxide are very real. According to the Center for Disease Control more than 20,000 visit the emergency room every year for carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. More people die from carbon monoxide than other sensationalized killers like shark attacks, and it’s much easier to fend off than a Hammerhead.
Just so we’re all on the same page about it, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is one carbon atom and one oxygen atom. It’s created from organic compounds combusting, the product of incomplete combustion, and it can be found in cigarette smoke, gas (or kerosene) powered appliances, non-electric heaters, or charcoal grills. The compound is deadly because it is absorbed by red blood cells quicker than oxygen, and if there’s too much CO in the air in your house, you’ll slowly get poisoned from it. If exposed, acute poisoning may occur and symptoms like nausea, headache, and fatigue may occur which leads it to be diagnosed as the flu more often than not. There are even sources that say acute poisoning may progress mental diseases like dementia, depression, and psychosis. If exposure to CO continues, chronic poisoning will develop and could lead to serious neurological problems like permanent memory loss, weaken the cardio-vascular system, or death. Like most things that lead to illness, the elderly and very young are more susceptible to CO poisoning.
Now before you go ripping every appliance out of the wall in fear of CO, know that it’s mostly from simple things you can keep tabs on at your convenience. As mentioned before, anything gas heated is a potential leak for CO. Make sure every gas appliance you use has a vent system, because if it doesn’t then a CO buildup will happen; also never use a gas oven or range for heating for the same reason. Although it may seem obvious, don’t use a generator indoors or in a garage because the buildup will happen quickly. It goes the same for keeping a car running with the garage door shut; you’re just sealing yourself in a tomb of silent and odorless badness.
Don’t start fearing every creak in the house now, because the good (or sad) thing about CO is how easily it can be prevented. Again, make sure every gas powered device in your house has a vent, or can be easily vented. Then, get a yearly check up on these systems too in case a fault has developed that would allow CO buildup. Same goes for your car’s exhaust system, make sure that’s checked on regularly or it could let the CO funnel into your car. Above all though, do you yourself a favor for peace of mind and buy a simple CO detector to plug into the wall. There are plenty of varieties you can find on sites like Amazon, and they range from as low as $15 or as fancy as $100.
Regardless of how much you spend on a CO alarm, it’s important that you have one. I’m not going to try and spook you into buying it with imagery like “the killer waiting in your kid’s room” or “the plague that’s already inside you house” because it’s not something to fear. It’s something to be smart about and take actions against like any other responsibility, like bills. Except bills can’t poison you.