COAST CITIES — Fire departments throughout the coastal cities are working to raise awareness of carbon monoxide, often called the “silent killer,” for November’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month.
“Carbon monoxide is the most toxic gas that most everybody will be exposed to in their daily lives,” said Robert Scott, fire marshal for Encinitas, Solana Beach and Del Mar.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas emitted by heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, barbeques, and many other appliances fired by natural gases, according to Scott.
Residents are exposed to carbon monoxide when these appliances are not properly ventilated or damaged. Fire departments are encouraging Californians to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.
In the U.S., carbon monoxide kills an average of 480 people and sends more than 20,000 people to emergency rooms each year, said State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover from the Cal Fire Office of the State Fire Marshall in a press release.
As of July 1, 2011, California state law requires all single-family homes with attached garages or fossil fuel sources for heating to have a carbon monoxide detector. The law requires that all other livable dwelling units must have detectors by Jan. 1, 2013.
“There’s been a rise of injuries and deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Scott “So I think that the state recognized that we’re growing in population, there are more homes being built. The existing homes may have older equipment that is starting to fail.”
Smoke detectors do not detect carbon monoxide, and so Scott is urging all residents to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. Scott recommends that residents install one detector on each level of a home in areas close to major appliances and near bedrooms.
Homes that were built prior to the 1970s are more likely to lack proper ventilation for major home appliances fired by natural gases, said Scott. People who are concerned about carbon monoxide exposure in their older homes should have their appliances inspected by their utility company.
He also advised that homeowners only allow licensed contractors to install new appliances in their homes.
There have not been any cases of carbon monoxide deaths in the coastal cities over the past three years, said Scott. But he estimates that there is at least one carbon-monoxide-related death each year within San Diego County.
Because carbon monoxide gas cannot be seen or smelled, it is difficult for people to detect the gas in their homes. If a person is exposed to significant carbon monoxide, the gas acts “like smoke, it lulls you into a deeper sleep. You won’t wake up,” said Scott. The main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness and nausea.
Carbon monoxide alarms range from $17 to $40, and can be found at most home supply and hardware stores.