Protect Yourself Against CO Poisoning

Carbon monoxide kills silently, but there are steps to take protect your family.

ByABC News via logo
November 24, 2009, 7:16 PM

Dec. 18, 2009— -- Even after 14 years, Cheryl Burt still recalls the labored breathing of her 16-month-old son, Zach. She says she felt helpless to save him as he died in his sleep of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Burt lost two of her three children that night to something she never even thought was a problem.

"When you have carbon monoxide in your home, you cannot see it. You cannot taste it. You cannot smell it. You will feel its effects -- a headache, nausea, dizziness -- but you don't realize that you're being poisoned," she told Congress today.

Burt's words fell on the ears of lawmakers Thursday as part of a series of hearings on a bill that aims to cut the number of carbon monoxide deaths -- currently 500 every year in the United States. Another 15,000 people go to the hospital with symptoms of CO poisoning.

Congress is considering legislation that would require all carbon monoxide detectors to meet certain standards and would allocate millions of dollars to educate the public about the life-saving value of those detectors.

But there are steps you can take right now to keep your family safe from CO poisoning and help identify when there might be a problem in your home.

Read the rest of Cheryl Burt's story by clicking here.

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning fuels like natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood and coal.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the easiest way people can protect themselves is to have a functioning carbon monoxide detector. Even though some devices cost around $20, only half of American homes currently have one and only six states -- Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin -- require them in every household.

Ideally, one should be installed on every level of the home and outside every separate sleeping area. You should change the batteries when you change your clock batteries, just like your smoke detectors.

Homeowners should get new detectors every eight to 10 years since the electronics inside can lose their effectiveness over time.