Friday, March 9, 2012

Carbon Monoxide: A Hidden, Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide (CO) is one of the greatest dangers that can affect the quality of the air in your home as well as put your family’s life at risk. The seriousness of carbon monoxide poisoning has partly to do with the difficulty of its detection: CO is an odorless, colorless gas. According to the EPA, because you can’t see it, taste it or feel its toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware that it’s in your home.

Additionally, the symptoms of CO poisoning are much like those of many other illnesses – headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. So you might mistake it for a bout of the flu and make the very wrong assumption that staying home will be good for you.

How CO poisoning affects you and your family members will depend on various factors, including age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. Low concentrations of CO could produce fatigue in healthy people but chest pain in people with heart disease. Higher concentrations could produce impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. CO is fatal at very high concentrations.

What Causes CO Poisoning?

Exposure to carbon monoxide could come from variety of sources, including: unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke. In particular, worn or poorly maintained combustion devices – like boilers and furnaces – can be significant sources, or if the flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected, or leaking.

What Should You Do?

First, install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms and one near the main gathering area. And also follow this guidance from the EPA:

·                Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
·                Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.
·                Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
·                Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
·                Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
·                Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
·                Do not idle the car inside garage.

Have you had a tune-up and safety inspection on your heating system?  Schedule yours today.