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Equip your home with a carbon monoxide detector

Updated January 26, 2012

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. The Cerritos Sheriff’s Station/Community Safety Division urges you to consider the safety benefits of purchasing a carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, such as wood, gasoline, propane, natural gas and oil.

Low levels of carbon monoxide are present in the air. Inside, the gas is formed from incomplete combustion from any flame-fueled device, including ranges, ovens, clothes dryers, fireplaces, space heaters, vehicles, and improperly ventilated furnaces and water heaters. Open flames from ovens and ranges are the most common sources of the gas, while vehicles are the most common cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Cerritos Sheriff’s Station/Community Safety Center urges residents to never use ovens, ranges or portable outdoor barbecues to heat their homes. These appliances are not meant for heating.

Have your heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually. The Southern California Gas Company offers this service for free.

For more home appliance safety information, please visit the Southern California Gas Company website or the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Carbon monoxide detectors trigger an alarm based on an accumulation of carbon monoxide over time. The detectors require a continuous power supply, so if the power cuts off, the alarm becomes ineffective. However, models are available that offer backup battery power.

Carbon monoxide interferes with the oxygen transport and gas exchange abilities of red blood cells, therefore starving the body of oxygen. Low levels of poisoning cause flu or cold-like symptoms, while higher levels of exposure lead to dizziness, mental confusion, severe headaches, nausea and fainting on mild exertion. Ultimately, carbon monoxide poisoning can result in unconsciousness, brain damage and death.

Detectors should be placed on a wall about five feet above the floor or on the ceiling. Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance. Keep the detector out of the way of pets and children. Each floor of a house needs a separate detector. A single carbon monoxide detector should be placed near your sleeping area. Make certain the alarm is loud enough to wake you up.

Don’t ignore the alarm! It is intended to go off before you experience symptoms. Silence the alarm, take your family outside, and ask whether anyone is experiencing any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. If anyone is experiencing symptoms, call 911. If no one has symptoms, ventilate the building, identify and remedy the source of the carbon monoxide before returning inside, and have appliances or chimneys checked by a professional as soon as possible.

Be aware that the average life span of many carbon monoxide detectors is three to five years. The “test” feature on many detectors checks the functioning of the alarm and not the status of the detector.

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