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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a toxic gas that is colorless and odorless gas that can cause illness or death. Carbon monoxide is released during any type of combustion or fire. In and enclosed space, any type of burning or combustion, such as that from a gasoline engine, can quickly build up to toxic levels. CO is emitted from stoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, lanterns, or any type of open flame or combustion is occurring.

Causes

Carbon monoxide is emitted from stoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, lanterns, or any type of open flame or combustion is occurring. CO then enters the lungs and bonds with the blood cells, thereby preventing true oxygen, O2, from entering the bloodstream. During your annual inspection, a certified sweep will check for any obstructions in your chimney.

Symptoms

The United States Centers for Disease Control name these symptoms as possible carbon monoxide poisoning:

Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause headaches. It is critical to have a working detector on each level of your home.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning can cause headaches. It is critical to have a working detector on each level of your home.

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion

Symptoms are similar to other illnesses, so it is important to be examined by a medical professional. They can perform simple tests to confirm or rule out carbon monoxide poisoning.

Prevention

The first step in prevention is Carbon Monoxide detectors. Every home needs one, even if you do not heat your home with gas or open flame. Most modern smoke detectors also have a carbon monoxide detector, but always make sure. If you are unsure about your detectors or look old, replace them with ones for sure that do. There are even separate carbon monoxide detectors that can be placed in other areas, like garages or other enclosed spaces, which will give a good sound warning when levels are reaching toxic levels.

The second step in prevention is using carbon monoxide common sense and follow these steps:

  • Have your heating system, water heater, or any other burning appliance  inspected and serviced every year
  • Ensure your chimney damper opens properly and free and your chimney system is inspected and serviced every year
  • Ensure all burning appliances are vented properly and not level. Vent pipes should move uphill and never be parallel to the ground.
  • Never patch a vent pipe with gum, tape, or other material
  • Do not use flameless chemical or catalytic heaters indoors. These release CO.

In case of a power outage, follow these steps for proper fire and carbon monoxide safety:

  • Never use a gas range or oven for room heating
  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors
  • Never use a generator indoors, a basement, a garage, or near a window, door, or vent. Outside is the only safe place for a generator.
  • Always use flame type heaters in a well-ventilated area or with a properly working CO monitor.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is as dangerous to health as fire and should be treated seriously and can be prevented with these few simple steps. Visit the Center for Disease Control for more information.