1) If you smoke, quit, and do not let anyone else smoke in your home, vehicle, or workplace.
2) Replace gas appliances in your home with electric ones, especially if --like gas ovens-- they are not vented to the outside.
3) If you must use gas appliances, have their burners and flues checked annually by a qualified service technician who has a CO detector and knows how to use it. Water heaters, furnaces, ovens, range tops, space heaters, and gas log fireplace inserts all need regular cleaning and tuning. This cannot be done properly simply by inspecting the color of the flame.
4) If your home is heated with a forced air ventilation system, make sure all the ducts are dry, mold-free and well connected throughout, especially on the return air side. Running a lot of exhaust fans at the same time (kitchen, bath, attic, clothes dryer, etc) is very dangerous, especially in newer "tighter" houses, as this may cause a reversal or "backdrafting" of the airflow in chimneys connected to furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces.
Toxic combustion gases that should go up the chimney are instead blown back down and into your home by the "makeup air" that is being sucked down the chimney to make up for all the air that the exhaust fans are pumping out. Backdrafting induced by exhaust fans may be avoided if you open a sufficient number of windows (and interior doors) to allow for other sources of makeup air besides your chimneys.
5) Avoid using propellant spray cans indoors because the most common propellant chemical in use today is dichloromethane, which the human body breaks down slowly into CO.
6) Avoid using liquid paints and solvents that contain dichloromethane, for the same reason, and if you must use them, do so only outside in fresh air or with plenty of ventilation
7) Avoid idling or even starting vehicles in unventilated attached garages. Attached garages should be ventilated by installing two passive vents in the ceiling (if on the side of the house with no rooms above) or, if the garage is tucked under the house, by installing a small powered exhaust fan (50 to 75 cubic feet per minute) that runs continuously. This will cost you about $100 per year in electricity.
A simpler option is just to roll your vehicle out of the garage and shut the door before starting it, especially on cold mornings. (Driving back into the garage after the engine is warm is less of a hazard since warm engines produce much less CO.) The most comprehensive solution is to overpressurize the house with respect to the garage by installing a much larger intake fan in the furnace room (in the range of 100 to 200cfm, also continuously operating).
As long as the house is overpressurized in this way, air will never leak in from the garage or chimneys, only out. If there are a lot of air leaks between the garage and the house (which HVAC contractors can measure with a "blower door test"), you also may want to seal off the garage with foam insulation, a tight fitting door, sealed electrical outlets in the walls, etc.
8) Avoid excessive exposure to mental and physical stressors (like high heat, bright lights, loud sounds, and strong odors) that provoke your body to break down more heme proteins into CO. Even without breathing in any CO from external sources, the level of CO your body produces when under stress is enough to cause CO symptoms like headache and fatigue.
9) Since CO cannot be smelled,
seen, tasted or felt, the only way to detect it is with a CO detector
of some kind. We recommend a portable low-level CO health monitor that
displays CO levels from at least 9parts per million (ppm), which
is the EPA's average allowable limit for outdoor exposure of the general
public. Regular CO alarms--all those made to UL or CSA specifications--do
not display CO levels under 30ppm and do not alarm below 70ppm.
If you have MCS or other CO-related disease like asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, or Parkinson's, you really should keep a CO monitor with you at all times--at home, work, in the car while commuting, on vacation, etc.--since CO levels may be elevated anywhere and anytime. Low level CO detectors are available from www.aeromedix.com.
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Last Modified: 11/08/06