Carbon Monoxide (CO): Weapon of Mass Destruction

There is nothing more frustrating to me than seeing needless deaths, particularly in America.  I thought I saw my share chasing down WMD's that were never found in the Middle East.  Does it sound that outrageous to put Carbon Monoxide in the same class as these?  Think about it: a Colorless, Odorless Gas that poisons it's targets by being inhaled.  The only thing a ruthless Dictator is missing is a way to weaponize this.  Based on Consumer Reports, between 1999 and 2004, an average of 439 Americans perished each year.  In 2011, Massachusetts saw Fire Departments responded to 18,000 CO incidents, with over 5,500 confirmed homes contaminated with CO.  With the rising numbers of reports each year, it is apparent that people are becoming more aware of the deadly gas.  Yet we continue to see reports of CO Poisoning, so what can we do as a society to combat this?

  Enter the HVAC and Home Performance Companies!  You are likely most prepared and equipped to combat this silent evil.  You need to communicate with and educate your customers to keep them safe.  Also, companies need to equip their personnel with the necessary safety devices.  I happen to work for a company that puts safety at the forefront and supplies field personnel with personal CO monitors.  I understand the cost to equip everyone, but think about the alternative!  Already this year I have been into a home that did not have heat, the homeowner was operating the gas stove all night and my monitor immediately hit 15 ppm CO.  On the way home that day the local pizza place did not have their make-up air unit on, noticeable by the resistance in the door, and the meter read 10 ppm.     Although these numbers are far from immediate poisoning, over a long period of time the homeowner and cooks will eventually be poisoned.

  When it comes to testing the appliances, please do not put on blinders and only peer at the furnace when you walk into a home.  What about that water heater sitting next to it, or the gas dryer, and even stoves.  I would not be able to go to sleep at night if I did not at least recommend to a homeowner to have these appliances tested annually for safety.  Take a look at the BPI recommendations for allowed CO in the flue.  If the numbers are too high, you have incomplete combustion and need to have the appliance repaired.

  This weekend, when you set your clocks back for daylight savings time, everyone has been taught from an early age to replace the batteries in their smoke detectors. Why not add a CO monitor to that very short list?  Test your monitor and replace the batteries if applicable (some are hard-wired only).  If your monitors are over 5 years old, consider replacement.  Please do not scoff at the prices and cheap-out on a very important safety device.  Make sure you look for a UL label and go with quality!

  If you have any combustion appliances, you are required in most states to have a CO detector.  This means if you do not have one, make it a point to purchase one this weekend.  Just because you do not have a gas furnace or water heater does not mean you should not have a CO Monitor installed!  Just recently a family of four died of CO due to a generator operating in their garage, since the electricity in their new home was not turned on by the electric company yet.  New Hampshire has figured this out, making November "Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month".  Take a look at their recommendations, and pass it on.  Please do not let this happen to anyone you know, educate and test!

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