Carbon monoxide dectectors should be replaced every five years

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Eileen Yager, Communications Officer, Extension & Ag Information, University of Missouri

Homeowners may be surprised to learn that they need to replace the carbon monoxide detector they bought just a few years ago.

“Carbon monoxide detectors are only good for about five years,” said Michael Goldschmidt, a housing and environmental design specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

The arrival of cooler weather brings increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning as people kick on natural gas and propane furnaces. “One of the most common areas where carbon monoxide occurs is the furnace and the flue,” Goldschmidt said.

Detectors use an electrochemical element to measure the carbon monoxide levels in the air, he said.

“After five years, the carbon monoxide detector can function improperly,” he said. “It could ring when there isn’t a high level of carbon monoxide or not ring when carbon monoxide levels are high.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include headaches, tightness of chest, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and breathing difficulties. Severe exposure to carbon monoxide can cause brain damage and death, Goldschmidt said.

Unintentional carbon dioxide poisoning results in about 2,100 deaths per year, according to researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, who believe more than half of those deaths could be prevented with carbon monoxide detectors.

Gas furnaces, as well as gas-powered water heaters, stoves and other appliances, generate small amounts of carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion.

“If they are not working properly, they will produce large amounts” of the odorless, colorless gas, he said. “We recommend that you get the furnace checked every year.”

To learn more about installing and testing carbon monoxide detectors, view the full version of this article at http://missourifamilies.org/features/housingarticles/housing7.htm

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