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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: What is it and how can Nest Alarm prevent it?

As winter approaches, cases of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning begin to rise. However, it can be easily prevented by utilizing an alarm system like the Nest Protect carbon monoxide alarm.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, also known as “CO”, is a gas which is undetectable by the human senses; you cannot see, smell, or taste carbon monoxide. It can only be identified through the aid of a detector, such as the Nest Protect carbon monoxide alarm.

Carbon monoxide silently attacks the human body; breathing in too much can be deadly in just a few short minutes. If carbon monoxide is present in the body, our red blood cells will choose carbon monoxide over oxygen. Our body tissues – especially brain tissue – stops functioning if it doesn’t receive a continuous supply of oxygen. The body being starved of oxygen is what makes overexposure to carbon monoxide deadly.

“Exposure to carbon monoxide impedes the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to body tissues and vital organs,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. “When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it combines with hemoglobin (an iron-protein component of red blood cells), producing carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), which greatly diminishes hemoglobin’s oxygen-carrying capacity. Hemoglobin’s binding affinity for carbon monoxide is 300 times greater than its affinity for oxygen. As a result, small amounts of carbon monoxide can dramatically reduce hemoglobin’s ability to transport oxygen.”

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

According to Canada Safety Council, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings in North America.

Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. However, the elderly, infants and those with chronic heart disease, anemia or breathing problems are more susceptible to becoming sick from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to CDC.

Majority of the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are brain related due to the lack of oxygen.

Symptoms vary based on the concentrations of carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Low Concentrations: dizziness, nausea, slight headaches, and shortness of breath on moderate exertion
  • High Concentrations: severe headaches, dizziness, mental confusion, vision and/or hearing impairment, collapsing or fainting on exertion
  • Extreme Concentrations: unconsciousness, coma or death

Carbon monoxide is classified as potentially hazardous to the human reproductive system. Studies indicate that women who are exposed to carbon monoxide during pregnancy have a higher rate of low birth weight, miscarriage and stillbirths. According to the CDC, carbon monoxide exposure can be dangerous during pregnancy for both the developing fetus and the mother.

At high concentrations, carbon monoxide vapors can also cause fire and explosion.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a material is burned. Homes with attached garages and those with fuel-burning appliances are more likely to encounter carbon monoxide issues. Examples of fuel-burning appliances are gas stoves, charcoal grills, wood fireplaces and generators. 

Some ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning inside your home include:

  • Never leave your car running in the garage, even if the garage door is open.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and other appliances that use gas, coal or oil regularly checked and serviced by a qualified technician.
  • Never use portable, flameless, chemical heaters inside the home.
  • If you’re using a gas refrigerator and it is emitting an odour, have it checked by a qualified technician. An odour from a gas refrigerator could mean that it’s leaking carbon monoxide.
  • Have your flues, chimney and vents regularly checked and serviced to ensure that they’re properly connected, in good shape and free of blockages.
  • Never use your oven or gas range for purposes other than cooking. Using these appliances for heating your home can cause carbon monoxide to build-up.
  • Burn charcoal outdoors only. Burning charcoal indoors can cause carbon monoxide to build-up inside your home.
  • Using a portable gas camp stove indoors is also not advisable as this again can cause carbon monoxide to build-up.
  • Only use portable generators, pressure washers or any gasoline-powered engine outside of the home and make sure that it’s not placed near open doors, windows or vents.
  • Open your window slightly whenever you use a wood-burning fireplace to get fresh air and to prevent carbon monoxide build-up.

Nest Protect Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Installing a Nest Protect carbon monoxide alarm is one of the most effective ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning inside your home.

The Nest Protect carbon monoxide alarm has been tested to comply with safety standards by Underwriters Laboratories Inc., Canadian Standards Association, California State Fire Marshal and British Standards Institution.

Whenever Nest Protect detects high levels of carbon monoxide, it will inform the home occupants in three ways:

1. Visual

The device’s light ring will glow either red or yellow, giving occupants an emergency visual warning.

2. Sound

Nest Protect will sound an 85 decibel alarm and advise occupants of what type of danger is present as well as the location. For example: “Emergency, there’s carbon monoxide in the kitchen. Move to fresh air.”

3. Mobile Notification on NEST Alarm

When you install your Nest Protect, also download the Nest app. This will ensure that you’ll receive a notification whenever there’s a high level of carbon monoxide and it’ll also notify you about the exact location of the emergency.

This Nest Protect carbon monoxide alarm also doubles as a smoke alarm. Similar with the CO alarm, it will also notify you through a visual alert, as well as differentiate the type of danger (smoke or CO) through the alarm sound and mobile notification.

Aside from the three observable notifications, in case of emergency, the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm also uses a “wireless interconnect” – a system that works independently of Wi-Fi, so it’ll still function even if your home Wi-Fi is down.

If you’re also using the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Protect will tell your thermostat to turn off fossil fuel heating during smoke and carbon monoxide emergencies.

Have questions, or need help? Call us today, and protect your family.