Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of death by poisoning. More than 500 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States every year. Exposure to CO can come from several sources, including fireplaces and other fuel-burning appliances. The more you know about carbon monoxide poisoning, the better equipped you are to prevent it from happening in your home.
Some quick facts about carbon monoxide:
• You cannot smell or see carbon monoxide.
• It takes mere minutes for high levels of CO to kill a person.
• Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is burned, including wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, and gas.
• The amount of carbon monoxide produced in a fire depends upon the efficiency or quality of combustion.
• If a burner which uses natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) functions properly, very little carbon monoxide is produced; if, however, the burner isn’t adjusted properly or isn’t working properly, life-threatening levels of CO could be produced with no warning signs that are visible.
• It’s particularly dangerous to operate a fuel-burning appliance in an enclosed space that has no ventilation if the appliance is not functioning properly.
• Paint remover which contains methylene chloride should never be used around children or in spaces that are not well ventilated. The body converts methylene chloride into carbon monoxide.
Common sources of carbon monoxide:
• When combustion gases are prevented from being removed from the home because of a chimney that is obstructed, a broken chimney connector pipe, or a rusted heat exchanger, accumulation of combustion gases and exposure to CO can occur.
• Dangerous levels of CO from a generator engine or lawnmower that is operating in the garage can enter the home.
• If a car idles in the garage that isn’t adequately ventilated, it can cause CO to enter the home.
• Reverse air flow or backdrafting in a chimney can cause carbon monoxide to enter the home. This situation usually occurs because a home is too tightly sealed and prevents the chimney from operating properly.
• Indoor use of a charcoal-burning barbeque grill can cause dangerous levels of CO.
• The prolonged use of a gas stove, such as for purposes of providing heat, is a dangerous practice which can cause CO poisoning.
If you suspect that you or someone in your home may be suffering from exposure to carbon monoxide, go outside or where there is plenty of ventilation and contact emergency services immediately. The following are common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:
• A headache
• Shortness of breath
• Loss of consciousness
Tips for preventing carbon monoxide poisoning:
• Install both a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm (at least one each) on each level of your home, including near bedrooms.
• The alarms should comply with local regulations regarding placement in the home.
• The alarms should meet the latest Underwriters Laboratories (UL) safety standards.
• Open dampers when using your fireplace.
• Only use generators outside.
• Space heaters should only be used in well-ventilated areas.
• Hire a professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect your chimney at least once every year.
Protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning by taking preventative measures. Since CO is odorless and invisible, prevention is the only real defense.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110