Saturday, July 30, 2011

Minimize Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Are you serving carbon monoxide for dinner? Most homes we visit, have gas burning ranges. Cooking with gas is fast, reliable and the choice of most chefs. One little irksome trouble is the possibility of Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure. If you have a CO monitor in your home- good job. Make sure to put one on each level of your home and especially on the bedroom level. Consider getting a peak flow monitor to help you know when and what your levels are.

The CPSC or Consumer Products Safety Commission sets the CO limits at 70ppm. At this level of CO, the monitor will give you a warning to prevent death. Preventing death is a noble reason to get a CO monitor. But you might consider getting a CO monitor with a peak flow monitor. Levels of CO can be low enough not to be fatal but high enough to cause all kinds of other health issues.
Interestingly, World Health Organization puts CO indoor air at 32ppm - max. The Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare has CO at 25ppm at a 1 hour limit. These are far below our 70ppm.

What is CO? "CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. It is a result of the incomplete combustion of carbon." Some of those irksome health issues at lower levels of CO can be headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. At low levels, chest pain and fatigue are most common. At higher levels you might get flu like symptoms and of course death.

If you have gas appliances, does this mean you also have a high CO level? Not necessarily, remember CO is an odorless gas. Because it is a sneaky toxin, you will want to install a safety net and minimize you families risk.

Here are some healthy home tips to minimize CO exposure:

Install CO monitors on every level of home- preferable peak flow monitors
Have your appliances, furnaces and fireplace professionally installed and maintained
Install and use an exhaust fan over your range- making sure it vents to the outside!!
When cooking always run your exhaust fan
Do not idle your car in the garage
Never used charcoal grills, camping stoves, gas powered equipment indoors
Never use gas powered stoves or ranges to heat home

Besides gas ranges, here are some other CO producers to keep an eye out for:

Any gas appliance: furnace, water heater, washer, dryer....
Wood or gas burning stoves
Gas/fuel burning equipment- such as pressure washers or heaters
Charcoal grills and camping stoves
Attached garages

As always, wishing you a healthy, happy home and good cooking!!
Denise Frakes
Certified Healthy Home Specialist

Sources: Healthy Housing Referrence Manual, Essentials for Healthy Homes Practitioners Course, EPA

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