Now that we are in the middle of the heating season, families should be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning and what causes this odorless, colorless, tasteless, and deadly gas in a home. It’s important to understand what causes carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and know what precautions to take to avoid dangerous exposure in your home.
Why Is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous to You and Your Family?
When breathed in, carbon monoxide replaces oxygen which our cells need to function. When CO is present in the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood, causing symptoms similar to the flu, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability.
Make sure there is adequate fresh air in your home at all times. If you suspect that CO is leaking into your home, ventilate the area by opening all the windows immediately. If you or a family member displays sudden flu-like symptoms, evacuate your home as soon as possible and call the local gas company or fire department.
What Produces Carbon Monoxide in the Home?
There are numerous sources that can give off CO emissions. These include:
- Vehicle running in an attached garage
- Clothes dryer
- Gas oven
- Gas stove
- Water heater
- Space heater
- Portable generator
- Charcoal grill
Gas stoves and range tops are common sources of carbon monoxide because they are rarely vented. When purchasing an appliance, look for one with a CO safety shut-off device. Wood-burning and gas-powered fireplaces are a common source of carbon monoxide in the home. Leaving the window open a few inches allows the circulation of fresh air in the room. Only burn seasoned firewood made for that purpose, and make sure the damper and flue are open before starting a fire in the fireplace.
Why Are Gas Furnaces Dangerous Sources of Carbon Monoxide Emissions?
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct produced when a fuel is burning, like wood, propane, kerosene or natural gas. When a furnace is operating properly, carbon monoxide is safely removed from the home through the flue. If the furnace or flue is not working properly – carbon monoxide can be released into the home.
What Can You Do to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
- Have your furnace checked and serviced regularly
- Have regular maintenance performed on all sources that could give off CO
- Be sure that all fuel-burning appliances are exhausted outside the home
- Install a carbon monoxide detector or alarm near your furnace and water heater
Why Is a CO Detector Vital for Any Home With a Gas Furnace?
It will alert you if the level of carbon monoxide in the air becomes harmful. A CO detector or alarm is the best protection from the dangers of CO poisoning. Make sure that the detector or alarm has been fully approved for its intended use. Don’t unplug or remove the battery to silence a detector or alarm, because you may fall back to sleep and suffer deadly consequences. When a detector or alarm goes off, ventilate the area and change the detector’s battery. Always assume the worst, for your own safety.