Carbon monoxide poisons at least 3,000 people in their homes each year. Hundreds of people die from it. Yet domestic causes of poisoning are easy to avoid. To prevent any risk, it is useful to know not only the symptoms but also the devices in question at home. We give you 15 prevention tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide, an invisible danger
If carbon monoxide (CO) causes so many victims, it is because this gas is colorless and odorless. There is no way to detect its presence in the air. Unlike carbon dioxide (CO2), known as a greenhouse gas, the presence of CO represents a danger immediate for health.
All it takes is incomplete combustion to produce it, regardless of the fuel used. An emanation of CO can occur from an appliance running on coal, gasoline, natural gas, fuel oil, petroleum, butane, propane, or even wood. It diffuses very quickly in the air and quickly becomes toxic in a confined space.
What are the health risks ?
Highly toxic, carbon monoxide is absorbed very quickly by the body. A few minutes are enough for it to enter your bloodstream and bind to hemoglobin.
CO asphyxiates blood cells, which can lead to death within minutes.
To give you an idea of its speed, know that a rate of 0.1% of CO in the air is enough to kill a person in one hour. From 1% CO, your life expectancy is reduced to a quarter of an hour. A level of 10% carbon monoxide in the air causes instant death.
Two types of poisoningdepending on the amount of monoxide to which people are exposed, have different symptoms:
- A weak, but sometimes regular exposure leads to a “chronic” poisoning : headache, nausea, mental confusion. At this stage, it is difficult to identify the cause of the symptoms. They can easily be confused with other pathologies.
- High exposure causes acute poisoning : dizziness, loss of consciousness, muscle paralysis, behavioral disorders, even coma or death.
Only oxygen therapy can save the life of an intoxicated person, via an oxygen mask or in a hyperbaric chamber for the most serious cases. But even when recovered, it may retain serious sequelaeranging from chronic migraines to disabling neurological disorders.
Sources of poisoning at home? Anything that heats up or has a motor…
Any appliance with incomplete combustion generates carbon monoxide. The CO can for example come from a defective device or one used in bad conditions.
- Heating devices. Aside from electrical appliances, all the others are concerned: stoves, inserts, boilers, auxiliary heating… And this regardless of their fuel, wood, oil, gas or coal.
- Anything that runs on natural gas or propane: cooker, water heater, refrigerators…
- The cooks wood, gas or coal.
- outdoor devices : barbecue, brazier, oil lamp, stove…
- The generators. Fuel oil or gasoline, fixed or mobile, they are often singled out among the causes of poisoning.
- Thermal vehicles : automobile, motorcycle, boat, etc. Anything with a combustion engine can emit CO in a confined space.
- Gas-powered tools : mower, chainsaw, brush cutter, etc.
How to avoid poisoning? 15 prevention tips:
Most of the time, poor combustion of an appliance comes from improper use or lack of maintenance. A clogged exhaust duct, a poorly ventilated room, a conflict between two appliances,… It doesn’t take much to make an installation dangerous. But you can easily fix it by following a few rules of caution.
- Do not neglect the maintenance of heating appliances. Your boiler should be checked and serviced regularly by a professional. Once a year, preferably before winter, ask for a complete maintenance of your heating system.
- Check the condition of the chimney flue. Whether it is a concrete evacuation duct or an aluminum or stainless steel tubing, its role is essential in the proper functioning of the heating. A regular sweeping of the duct is to be expected, at least once a year.
- Maintain Controlled Mechanical Ventilation (the VMC) of your accommodation.
- Also check that the smoke exhaust takes place completely outside the home.
- Do not use auxiliary devices permanently. A butane, propane or kerosene heater should not be used continuously. These are devices to watch out for.
- Never use a generator indoors.
- Do not heat yourself with appliances not designed for it. Never use the oven of the open door stove or a camping heater, for example, to heat yourself.
- Only buy CE marked gas appliances. If you have to buy a gas cooker or a gas boiler, this standard is essential to guarantee the safety of the appliance.
- Beware of conflicts between two devices! Never install a hood in a room where there is already a device connected to the outside by a duct. Also, make sure that a chimney fireplace does not cause a draft inversion of the flue to which the boiler is connected Call a professional to find the best way to evacuate the fumes without creating a dangerous conflict.
- Clean gas stove burners often. If a burner goes out when idling or if the air-gas mixture is not made correctly, there is a risk of carbon monoxide.
- Be careful with small water heaters without flue gas venting. These small devices can only be used occasionally and for a maximum of eight minutes. They must still be installed in a sufficiently large and ventilated room. They need 15 m3 to operate safely. Forbidden in a bathroom, bedroom or living room!
- Do not run the engine of a vehicle or a combustion device in an enclosed spacegarage, shelter or shed.
- Do not use a barbecue or propane fire pit in the house. They are designed for outdoor use only. They are not heaters.
- Ventilate your home in all seasons. Even during the cold season, the ventilation of a dwelling avoids many problems. Do not block the ventilation grilles of the windows; on the contrary, they must be clean and cleaned regularly. And do not hesitate to open the windows at least ten minutes a day to renew the air.
- For added safety, install a carbon monoxide detector box. In the event of a suspicious emanation, it triggers an alarm.
NB : Recent appliances to be connected to a flue have the MOCK. The permanent thermal draft observation system monitors any malfunctions and discharge of combustion products. In the event of incomplete combustion, this safety device stops the activity of the system.
Poisoning: emergency actions that save lives
The slightest symptom should be taken seriously. With carbon monoxide, a person’s survival depends on how quickly those around them react. In the same household, several people can be affected by the same symptoms. If they suffer, together or gradually, headaches, fatigue or nausea: red alert!
- Ventilate the premises! Open doors and windows wide to evacuate monoxide.
- Stop combustion appliances, if possible. But don’t let that put you in danger.
- Evacuate the premises as soon as possible. Yourself quickly leave the zone of intoxication.
- Alert the emergency services. Dial the European emergency number (112) or that of the fire brigade (18) or the Samu (15).
- Wait for instructions help or the advice of a heating professional before returning to the premises. After the diagnosis of professionals, works repairs may be recommended in the event of failure of your installation.