Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that is produced by sources such as gasoline engines, diesel engines, and propane-fueled appliances.
Avoiding exposure to this potentially fatal gas, known as the silent killer, is critical to motorhomers.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, drowsiness, decreased tolerance to exercise, visual disturbances, heart palpitations, nausea, and vomiting. If repeated exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide are not recognized, these symptoms -- often misdiagnosed as influenza -- may be chronic or recurrent.
Acute exposures to high levels of carbon monoxide can cause a rapid progression to severe poisoning, in which case the symptoms are not apparent to the victim. The signs of acute toxicity are rapid heart and respiratory rates, irregular heart rhythms, vomiting, disorientation, low blood pressure, convulsions, respiratory failure, coma, and death.
Here are 14 recommendations to reduce the risk of CO poisoning:
1. 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.
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 or sidewalls. If you locate a hole, seal it with a silicone adhesive or have it repaired before using your generator again.
4. Inspect windows, door seals, and weather strips to ensure that they are sealing properly.
5. Yellow flames in propane-burning appliances such as coach heaters, stoves, ovens, and water heaters usually indicate a lack of oxygen. Determine the cause of this condition and correct it immediately.
6. If applicable, have your built-in vacuum cleaner checked to make sure it does not exhaust under the underside of your RV. Have the system changed if it does.
7. Do not operate your generator if the exhaust system is damaged in any way or if an unusual noise is present.
8. Park your RV so that the exhaust may easily dissipate away from the vehicle. Do not park next to high grass or weeds, snowbanks, buildings, or other obstructions that might prevent exhaust gases from dissipating as they should.
9. Keep in mind that shifting winds may cause exhaust to blow away from the coach one moment and under the coach the next.
10. When stopping for long periods of time, be aware of other vehicles around you, such as tractor-trailers at rest stops, that may have their engines and refrigerators running.
11. Do not sleep with the generator operating.
12. Leave a roof vent open anytime the generator is running, even during the winter.
13. If you do not feel well, do not be fooled into thinking that 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 some fresh air just to be sure.
14. Consider parking in the "No Generator" zone that FMCA makes available at its conventions.