carbon monoxide detectorThis morning I was talking over coffee with my boss and she brought something alarming to my attention: This week's "Intelligencer" section of New York Magazine, which highlights the casualties of Hurricane Sandy. Right there in a dull-yellow print were 100 names of men and women who lost their lives during the storm. The names themselves, striking, but perhaps more so -- the cause of death listed under each one. The common thread? An alarming number of them died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

It's scary. Really scary. To think that so many people were unaware of the lurking silent killer surrounding them. Until now, I haven't thought twice about not having a carbon monoxide detector in my little uptown New York City apartment. The facts are, though, whether you're a single woman like me or a mother of three in a big ol' house -- carbon monoxide doesn't discriminate.

Alarmed? You should be. Here are 6 tips to protect yourself from the dangers of carbon monoxide:

1. Know where it comes from: Carbon monoxide is primarily found in combustion fumes like those that come from cars, as well as stoves, lanterns, burning wood, generators, gas ranges, lanterns, and other heating systems. If you're in an enclosed space, the gases can build up and, as a result, cause illness or death.

2. Know what to look for in a CO detector: Seek out a carbon monoxide detector that uses electrochemical sensors. This is the most accurate type of sensor. It also uses less power and the detector is less sensitive to contaminants and, ultimately, the most efficient. You'll be able to see what type of sensor the device uses on the box.

3. Know how many you need: The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends placing a detector outside of all sleeping areas, as well as on each level of your home.

4. Keep track of when you replace the batteries: Generally, carbon monoxide detectors require battery replacement twice per year. However, check the instructions on your chosen detector to see what the manufacturer recommends.

5. The detector is NOT good forever: You should clean the unit once a month, and replace the alarm as a whole every 5 to 7 years.

6. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning: If you've been exposed to carbon monoxide, you may feel nausea, dizziness, headache, weakness, or chest pain among other symptoms.

Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your house? Is it something that's important to you and your family?

 

Image via Home Depot