This Month with UL – The Dangers of CO Poisoning

We’re not superheroes. We don’t fly around in capes, we can’t stop a runaway train, and we can’t prevent a flood of water tumbling over a city. Our children like to think we’re superheroes and although we do the best we can to protect them, in reality, there are still so many dangers lurking around every corner. One of the ongoing and silent dangers lurking around is CO poisoning. CO, or Carbon Monoxide, is a colorless, odorless and poisonous gas and is a bi-product of incomplete burning of fuel – such as propane, kerosene, gasoline, oil, natural gas, wood and charcoal.  It can emit from faulty products, such as a gas stove, furnace or water heater. And because we can’t generally smell it or see it, it is one of the most dangerous poisons you can have in your home. And according to UL (Underwriters Laboratories:, it is a danger that kills 500 people and sends 20,000 more to the hospital each year.

Having children can be both rewarding and satisfying. But once you have kids, there are a whole lot of things you have to worry about. Besides worrying about illnesses or bullies or disobedience, there are many things to worry about just in your home. Safety at home should be the first priority because after all, you and your kids spend most of your time at home than anywhere else. That’s why we have to be even more diligent when it comes to safety at home and depending on the ages of your chidren, you’ll need to know what safety steps apply to the specific age. And just because as kids get older it doesn’t always mean they’re more aware of dangers in the home. At Underwriter Laboraties, they have made a priority to educate and inform the public about hazards at home and how to protect you and your children whereever you are. UL is a global leader in the industry of private and public safety research and awareness and you can see their logos on practically everything.

John Drengenberg, the Consumer Safety Director at UL, explained the importance of knowing the warning signs of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. He indicates that people most susceptible to CO poisoning are very young children, the very elderly and pregnant women. Even pets are affected the same way so don’t forget about the little puppy! As Drengenberg stresses, every home should have a working UL certified CO alarm. Place them in an area where it can be seen and heard, outside the bedroom doors, and preferably on every floor of the house. And if you suspect CO poisoning and you notice pets, or young children starting to show signs of improvement when outside of the home, you should have an expert evaluate your furnace, water heater and other fuel burning appliances.

Following are UL’s 5 guidelines for CO safety and warning signs:

– Know the signs: Look for streaks of carbon or soot around your fuel-burning appliance; the absence of a draft in your chimney (indicating blockage);moisture collecting on windows and walls of furnace rooms; and rust on the portion of the vent pipe. If you need assistance, you can always make a nonemergency call to your local fire department.

– Be Alert to symptoms: Flu-like symptoms of poisoning include nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, confusion and breathing difficulty. Additionally, CO poisoning often causes a victim’s blood pressure to rise, and the victim’s skin may take on a pink or red cast.

– Home Installation: Ensure that your CO alarms are installed in the main areas of your home; it is recommended to have one alarm on every floor.

– Protect and Prevent: Purchase and install UL Listed CO alarms outside each sleeping area. The UL Listing on a CO alarm means the product has been found free of foreseeable hazards and is safer for your family.  Also, test the alarm monthly and replace the batteries in your CO alarms at least once a year.

– Get Out and Get Help: If the alarm sounds, the source of the alarm must be identified. Open a door and window, and get everyone out of the house.  Once you have your family outside, call emergency services and do not reenter your home until you are told to do so by the emergency services professionals.

We all love spending time inside our home and kids especially feel their home as the most solid form of attachment. So it’s important as parents to make sure we educate our children and our family about the dangers of CO poisoning. As Drengenberg stated, CO has become more forward facing in the media due to the fact that consumers are asking more questions about home safety and home repair. CO can often build up in a modern home more quickly because we all are trying to be energy efficient and sealing up our homes more tightly with better insulation, more calk and less drafty windows.  Furthermore,detecting CO poisoning in a person can be hard, since CO poisoning results in the same symptoms as the common flu. These symptoms may include headache, stomach aches, vomiting and fatigue. So Drengenberg suggests the best way to confirm one has CO poisoning is having a blood test done.

UL Listed CO alarms can be found and purchased at major home improvement stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, etc. as well as other major discount stores such as Target and Walmart. We purchased ours at Coscto and purchased a set for my parents as well. With more and more indoor hazards on the rise, it’s important to start now on installing your CO alarms in your home. For more information about CO safety and other safety tips from UL, please visit their website: