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Carbon Monoxide: The Silent Killer
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas—often dubbed the Silent Killer— that is toxic and the number one cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States.
It is produced by the incomplete combustion of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. Appliances fueled with gas, oil, kerosene, or wood may produce CO.
If such appliances are not installed, maintained, and used properly, carbon monoxide may accumulate to dangerous and even deadly levels in recreational vehicles, cars, homes, or poorly ventilated areas.
The symptoms of poisoning are similar to flu or food poisoning and include headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
Although not always experienced, the initial symptoms of carbon monoxide are similar to an upset stomach or the flu (but without the fever).
The symptoms include:
- Irregular breathing
It is critical to note that death from carbon monoxide poisoning can result with some or all of these symptoms never being experienced, in which case the overexposed victim simply falls asleep and never regains consciousness.
It is vital that RVers take the necessary precautions to avoid the tragic loss of life that can occur from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Tragic deaths occur every year from summertime carbon monoxide poisoning.
Generators can produce lethal doses of the gas.
A carbon monoxide safety resource (carbonmonoxidekills.com) provides the following 14 safety precautions for RVers:
The most important recommendation: USE A CARBON MONOXIDE WARNING DETECTOR. As is true of a smoke alarm, reliance on a CO detector is acceptable only if the device is in good working order and is tested periodically as directed by the manufacturer.
1. Use a carbon monoxide warning detector
2. Inspect your RV’s chassis and generator exhaust system regularly, at least before each outing and after bottoming out or any other incident that could cause damage
3. Inspect the RV for openings in the floor and sidewalls (seal any holes with silicone adhesive or have it repaired before using your generator again)
4. Inspect windows, door seals, and weather strips for effective seals
5. Yellow flames in propane-burning appliances (coach heaters, stoves, ovens, water heaters, etc.) indicate a lack of oxygen—determine the cause and correct it immediately
6. Do not operate your generator if the exhaust system is damaged in any way or if an unusual noise is present
7. Park your RV so that the exhaust can easily dissipate away from the vehicle—do not park next to high grass or weeds, buildings, or other obstructions that might prevent exhaust gases from dissipating as they should
8. Be aware that shifting winds can cause exhaust to blow away from the coach at one moment, but under the coach in the next moment
9. When stopping for long periods of time, be aware of other vehicles around you that may have engines, refrigerators, or generators running
10. Do not sleep with the generator operating
11. Leave a roof vent open any time the generator is running (even during winter)
12. If you do not feel well, do not be fooled into thinking it is because you have been driving too long, you ate too much, or you are suffering from motion sickness—shut off the generator and step outside for fresh air just to be sure
13. Have your built-in vacuum cleaner inspected to ensure that it does not exhaust on the underside of your RV
14. Consider parking in a “no generator” zone at RV rallies
Remember, safety is no accident.
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