Colorless, odorless, deadly

This cold snap has reminded me of something that could cause you a problem. All of us like to get into a warm vehicle with a clear windshield. There are vehicles that can even be started by a person on the inside of their home. The problem comes when a vehicle is started inside an attached or unattached garage, and is not immediately moved outside. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide (CO) can build up in the unattached garage, but the deadly levels can even move inside your home when your car sits in an attached garage.

Here are some facts about carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Our bodies will allow carbon monoxide to attach to our hemoglobin, preventing the needed oxygen from being able to attach
  • Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and can be fatal
  • The vapor density of carbon monoxide is very close to room air, therefore it simply fills a space
  • Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning manifests itself by a reddening of the face, headache nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, unconsciousness or death.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning is reversed by hyperbaric treatment.

There are other ways that CO can enter a space, such as an improperly vented kerosene heater, a set of improperly burning gas logs or a woodstove where the smoke enters the living space. Whatever the cause, CO will affect everyone in that space, including animals. Short of always being mindful of this killer, the best means of detecting CO is with a UL or FM rated CO detector. CO detectors read CO in an acute dose or a cumulative dose. CO is harmful in both situations.

Once CO has entered a living space, the space must be ventilated. Since you cannot protect yourself or your family from this harmful gas, it will be necessary for you and your family to evacuate your home and call 9-1-1. Firefighters have atmospheric monitors, breathing apparatus and ventilation fans that can clear the space quicker than natural ventilation.

I will end where I left off. When warming up your car, make sure that it warms up outside of your garage. If you believe that you or your family have been subjected to CO levels, then you may need to be seen by medical personnel. It takes a great deal of time for CO to leave the body once poisoning has occurred.


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