Be aware of carbon monoxide dangers
Carbon monoxide often is called up the “silent killer.” The gas is colorless and odorless, and the symptoms of carbon monoxide poison are often so subtle that they go unnoticed until it’s too late. Any home with a fossil-fuel burning appliances — from woodstoves to gas furnaces to clothing dryers — is in danger of a toxic buildup of carbon monoxide. Being aware of carbon monoxide’s dangers and symptoms are the first step in keeping your family safe.
How carbon monoxide forms
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of improper combustion of fossil fuels, including natural gas, oil and wood. When appliances, like furnaces, heating stoves, fireplaces, space heaters and clothing dryers, are not properly vented or malfunction, carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels within a building.
Carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a particular concern during the winter months, when furnaces, fireplaces and heaters are working full time and houses are closed up. A blocked chimney, whether from soot, debris or an animal nest, can cause carbon monoxide to remain within a home. Because homes are being built or “winterized” to become more energy efficient and retain as much heat as possible, carbon monoxide poisoning is more of a hazard because the gas cannot escape through cracks or gaps in the home’s structure, allowing it to build up more quickly.
How carbon monoxide affects people
Carbon monoxide sickens people because when it is inhaled, it bonds with the blood instead of oxygen. As the level of carbon monoxide increases in a person’s bloodstream, the symptoms are mild, at first. Early symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. If exposure continues, carbon monoxide can cause blurred vision and confusion, and it can cause a person to lose consciousness. Untreated exposure can lead to brain or organ damage, and even death.
Any person experiences those symptoms should be seen by a doctor. If the mild symptoms of carbon monoxide seem to occur frequently when in your home, and if the symptoms go away when you leave home and return when you’re in your home, the home should be inspected for carbon monoxide.
How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
The number one way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to have your burning appliances inspected and cleaned annually. That includes having your chimney swept and your fireplace or heating stove inspected, changing your furnace filters and having the furnace cleaned and inspected, and having your dryer vents cleaned. Appliances, including space heater and generators, should never be used in unventilated spaces, and a gas stove or oven should never be left running as a source of heat.
Of course, every floor in your home should be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector. Everyone in your home should know what to do if those detectors sound: Evacuate the home, and call 911. Don’t go back inside until it has been deemed safe.
If you’re overdue for your annual chimney or furnace cleaning and inspection, call the expert chimney sweeps at Chimney Saver Solutions! We’ll make sure that your fireplace, heating stove or furnace is functioning properly, and that your ventilation is free from dangerous obstructions. Don’t put your family in danger; schedule an appointment today!