|You cannot see, smell, or taste carbon
monoxide, which is a poisonous gas. When carbon monoxide (CO) enters the
bloodstream, it reduces the amount of oxygen received by the body’s
organs and tissues. Unborn babies, children, the elderly, and people with
respiratory problems or heart disease are especially sensitive to carbon
monoxide. Even at low levels, carbon monoxide causes serious health problems,
and the longer the exposure, the more damage that occurs.
Low levels of carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms, headaches,
dizziness, and make it difficult to think clearly. Often a family may
not realize that their illnesses are related to chronic exposure to carbon
monoxide in the home.
At higher levels of exposure, carbon monoxide is related to visual impairment,
reduced work capacity, poor learning ability, and difficulty in performing
complex tasks. At very high levels, carbon monoxide can also kill. Each
year, more than 200 Americans accidentally die from carbon monoxide poisoning
in the home, unrelated to fires and engine exhaust (other sources of carbon
monoxide poisoning). Seventy-six percent of these deaths are from carbon
monoxide released from heating systems. Another eight percent are from
gas water heaters. Many victims of carbon monoxide poisoning die in their
sleep. An additional 10,200 people visit the emergency room due to accidental
carbon monoxide poisoning from consumer products.