Despite nearly daily media reports of deaths and injuries from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning across the country this winter, a startling number of consumers - 47 percent - do not have CO alarms in their homes, a new (Jan-09) national survey reveals.
Yet, the poll of 1,000 Americans shows a vast majority recognize the dangers of this odorless, invisible gas. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed - 73 percent - said they think carbon monoxide can be very dangerous in the home. The survey, conducted in late January, was sponsored by First Alert, manufacturer of home-safety products, including CO alarms.
Conversely, the same survey showed that when it comes to fire, Americans are much better protected. Ninety five percent of respondents reported having smoke alarms in their homes, including 26 percent who have five or more such devices located throughout their residences.
"Consumers are generally more aware of the dangers of home fires because fire is something they can see, feel and understand," said Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert. "Carbon monoxide is an especially dangerous threat because it attacks without warning and can be deadly. By educating consumers about the importance of protecting themselves and their families against this 'silent killer,' our goal is for people to attain the same level of protection from CO as they have against home fires."
Similar concerns prompted the Consumer Product Safety Commission last month to issue a special warning regarding CO and fire hazards, particularly during cold weather months when homeowners often use alternative heating sources.
Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S. The colorless, odorless gas can originate from anything that burns fuel, such as gas furnaces, stoves, water heaters, barbeque grills, wood-burning fireplaces and autos.
It is a by-product of incomplete combustion and can easily build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas throughout the home. Exposure to CO causes many flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.
In recent years, numerous states and municipalities have enacted legislation that requires people to have CO alarms in their homes. Many other government entities are considering such laws.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing CO alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. Basic CO alarms retail for under $25. In addition to basic models, First Alert offers a combination First Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm - SC01CN3, which retails under $50.
When the alarm is programmed after purchase, it will alert the homeowner, using a prerecorded human voice in addition to the normal beeping, in the event of a fire or carbon monoxide situation.