A news story earlier this week served as a reminder about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide (CO). An Atlanta school was evacuated when several students and adults became ill from exposure to high levels of CO. Thankfully, everyone seems to be okay, but the school remains closed while officials work to resolve the problem. I never gave a lot of thought to whether or not schools had CO alarms. The CO incident in Georgia has prompted my home state and others to take a closer look at this issue.
Because Carbon Monoxide is invisible and odorless it is not noticeable and the symptoms of CO poisoning are hard to distinguish from common ailments like the flu. It is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels, like natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood, charcoal and propane. Some of the causes are poorly maintained furnaces and boilers, problems with the ventilation and malfunctioning water heaters. It is an avoidable problem. Maintaining appliances and heating systems is a good place to start and then CO alarms can be added in the event systems fail. While this seems like an easy thing to do, in the U.S. only two states (Connecticut and Maryland) have some sort of requirements for CO alarms in schools. For single family homes it looks better, over half of the states require CO alarms in new homes. Of course that doesn’t do anything for existing homes, but it is a start. This is not just a U.S. issue, CO poisoning is a problem worldwide and installing alarms in schools and homes is seldom a standard practice.
This is an issue where we all need to work together to protect ourselves, our children and our families. As a parent or community member you can advocate for CO alarms in your schools and install one in your home if you don’t already have one, or if your CO alarm is 5 to 7 years old.
This is the season of giving. Give your friends and family the gift of a safe and healthy home. Along with a CO alarm, your healthy home gift bag should include a smoke detector, radon test kit, home maintenance checklist, green cleaning recipes, and home safety checklist.