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it Kills … Carbon monoxide (CO)
is toxic to humans because it is attracted to hemoglobin, the main component of
red blood cells. Normally, hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout our bodies,
releasing it to tissues as needed. When CO gas is present, it replaces the
oxygen, and in heavy concentrations, can kill in minutes. In lower
concentrations the symptoms mimic the flu or other viruses which are common in
cold weather months.
Early Warning Signs
In Your Home - Due to its nature, carbon monoxide cannot be detected by the human senses. But sometimes the gas will leave clues to its presence. These are things to look for which might indicate (but not always) that you have excessive concentrations of CO:
In Your Body -
The physical symptoms of CO poisoning are often misdiagnosed as the flu or virus. Some of the symptoms may include:
Infants, small children and persons with cardiovascular problems are more susceptible to the ill effects of carbon monoxide. Even low concentrations of the gas can cause problems for individuals in these categories. Since the physical symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu or virus, it is important to remember that if you do experience some of these symptoms, you may indeed have the flu. But if the conditions persist and nothing seems to help, or your entire family seems to be experiencing the same illnesses, you should seek medical advice immediately and mention your fear of carbon monoxide poisoning.
An Ounce of Prevention . . .
Here is list of things you can do to prevent the invisible killer from entering your home!
This year, many people will needlessly die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
In the early 1990s, a number of companies started selling low-cost electronic carbon monoxide detectors for consumer use. These seemed to offered great promise, but their history has been something of a roller coaster ride.
In 1992, Underwriter's Laboratory issued its UL2034 Standard for low-cost residential CO detectors. A number of manufacturers, including American Sensor, BRK Brands (First Alert), and Nighthawk Systems, quickly introduced UL-approved CO detectors priced in the $50 range. A few companies ran a massive campaign of "scare tactic" TV ads and quickly became the leading supplier of residential CO detectors. The industry really took off when the City of Chicago mandated the installation of CO detectors in residences beginning October 1, 1994.
The worst false-alarm offenders were the market-leading units that made use of the "biomimetic" (color-change) sensor technology. The sensor module simply passed a light beam through the "biomimetic" spot, and alarmed if the light was sufficiently attenuated (presumably because the spot had turned dark in color). Not only did this mean that the units had a limited sensor life and cross-sensitivity to gases and vapors other than CO), but the detector was plagued by false alarms due to the fact that other things could attenuate the light beam (smoke, contamination, even insects that crawled inside the sensor module).
In response to the false-alarm crisis, Underwriter's Laboratory revised its UL2034 Standard in June of 1995, but the false alarm problems didn't get any better. Meantime, in late 1995 and early 1996, the gas utility industry and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) started getting concerned about the very opposite problem: CO detectors that would not go off when they should! While First Alert had obtained an exclusive license on the biomimetic sensor technology for residential CO detectors, virtually all other detectors sold prior to 1996 (including #2 and #3 market leaders American Sensor and Nighthawk) made use of a metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) sensor, which was the only other low-cost sensor technology available at the time. CPSC tests revealed that some of the MOS-based units would fail to alarm even at life-threatening CO concentrations of 1,000 PPM or more! Many of these units were recalled.
In short, your choice in 1996 was between two sensor technologies, one (biomimetic) plagued by false positives and the other (MOS) plagued by false negatives.
Since then, the industry has gone through considerable improvements. Pittway Corporation wound up divesting itself of First Alert, which subsequently went public, then nearly bankrupt, and finally was acquired by Sunbeam in 1998. American Sensor wound up going bankrupt, while the assets of Nighthawk Systems were acquired by fire extinguisher giant Kidde Safety who subsequently redesigned their CO detector products to use a more reliable electrochemical sensor technology.
In 1998, Underwriters Laboratory finally revised its UL 2034 specification, but implementation was delayed until January 1, 2000. For a CO detector to be UL-approved for residential use after that date, UL requires that it must not indicate CO levels less than 30 parts per million (PPM), nor alarm at levels below 100 PPM. This requirement was imposed by UL at the request of gas utilities and firefighters to minimize the number of unnecessary emergency calls from homeowners.
Passive CO Detectors
Each year, thousands of people die or are seriously injured from exposure to
carbon monoxide gas. Low levels of exposure can cause symptoms which mimic
the flu or other viruses. High levels of exposure can kill in minutes.
Fortunately, there is a simple and inexpensive method for detecting this
silent and invisible killer. The passive Carbon Monoxide Detector has
an easy-to-see, visual indicator which warns of the presence of CO gas.
The circle on the indicator will turn gray or black, depending on the concentration
of CO. It will return to normal when exposed to fresh air again.
The detector has a convenient adhesive strip on the back, and mounts almost anywhere. Shelf life in an unopened pack is three years; once opened it should be replaced approximately every 60 days.
The detector is made of non-toxic materials, making it safe for use around children or pets.
It can detect as little as 100 ppm (parts per million) carbon monoxide gas. The detector will be inactivated and damaged by the presence of halogens (iodine, chlorine, bromine), and ammoniac or nitrous gases. Persons with cats may not be able to use the detector due to the presence of ammonia in the air from the cat litter box. Also, the detector is not an appropriate device for detecting CO gas in connection with diesel engines.
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