While smoke detectors are a common fixture in residences, there is another hazard to be considered to be considered for people who use gas to keep their houses warm when the weather turns cold: carbon monoxide.
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Administration, approximately 170 people in the country die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Residents in the city and county found out the importance of having carbon monoxide detectors when they called their respective fire departments to find out why theirs were continuously going off. In each instance it was no accident: the residences had high amounts of the poisonous gas.
Starkville Fire Chief Rodger Mann said city firemen recently responded to a call from an individual and used a carbon monoxide meter to determine there were approximately 127 parts per million in the air inside his residence.
“Usually 30 (parts per million) is where we want you to look at not staying (in the residence),” Mann said. “He called someone with a different detector and that wound up pegging out at 121, so he had a true problem. We advised him he had a problem in his home creating carbon monoxide and needed to leave home until he had it checked out by a professional to identify the problem.”
Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said a similar problem was reported in the county.
“County Fire Department members responded and with their meter were able to determine where the CO was being produced. Luckily the residents had not yet experienced any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning,” Rosenhan said. “However, had the gas continued to be produced and the residents had gone to bed, the outcome could have been quite different.”
Rosenhan said common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, malaise, sleepiness and reddish cheeks.
“Carbon monoxide is an insidious gas produced by the incomplete combustion of gases. It is a tasteless, odorless gas which affects the ability of the blood to absorb oxygen,” Rosenhan said. “People should not hesitate to call the fire department, emergency management services or the gas company if they experience symptoms of poisoning or think any of their appliances are malfunctioning.”
Rosenhan said carbon monoxide attaches itself to hemoglobin, causing hemoglobin count to decrease.
“It takes a finite amount of time for carbon monoxide to disassociate itself with hemoglobin.”
“Carbon monoxide puts you in a deep sleep,” Mann added. “It is an asphyxiant which robs the air of the oxygen in it and, basically, you just suffocate. The bad thing is it puts you in a deep sleep and you don’t realize anything is even happening.”
Rosenhan said any homes containing water heaters powered by gas or heating systems powered by gas or gas logs must have a carbon dioxide detector. Even homes without any of those systems could also use one, he said.
“Having a carbon monoxide detector would be good, period, because smoke from fires generates carbon monoxide as well,” he said.
Rosenhan said the typical price range for a battery powered or AC powered detector is anywhere from $15-60.
“Now is the time of year when all this begins to get more prevalent in our lives because of the need to keep houses warm,” Mann said. “It’s a good time for people to be more aware and conscious of what’s going on.”