The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
May 23, 2012
You can’t see it, hear it, or smell it… but it’s there, all right. And the worst thing you can do is ignore it!
Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning. This silent killer takes the lives of nearly 500 people every year when it could have been easily avoided.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is a natural by-product of appliances and power tools that burn fuels like gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal. Until recent tragic events, this fatal gas has been under-publicized and overlooked. However, it is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America. Common household appliances such as furnaces, boilers, water heaters and stoves give off carbon monoxide with incomplete combustions of flammable fuels. Exposure is due to poor venting, leaks or blockages in the vent system, or cracks and corrosion in a furnace’s heat exchanger.
Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric (www.ApplewoodFixIt.com) has seen a rise in requests for the installation of carbon monoxide alarms since the recent tragic deaths in Aspen, and several emergency situations in the Denver area. It is estimated 94 percent of homes have fire alarms, but only 13 percent have carbon monoxide detectors.
How is it dangerous?
Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless and colorless gas that is undetectable except by sophisticated gear. It is a deceptive poisoning since symptoms can mimic the flu and other common illnesses. Other indicators that a family might be at risk are fatigue, headaches, dizzy spells, nausea, vomiting and confusion. Known as the “Silent Killer” people can succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning with very little discomfort. They fall asleep, have loss of consciousness and, in the extreme cases, die of exposure. The Center for Disease Control estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning claims nearly 500 lives, and causes more than 15,000 visits to the hospital emergency departments, annually.
It is important not to ignore possible symptoms. If you or your family is feeling ill with symptoms common to carbon monoxide poisoning, evacuate your home immediately. Open doors and windows and turn off any potential sources. Contact your local emergency service crew for advice, and if necessary, tell your doctor you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
What to look for in the home?
Signs that indicate a carbon monoxide problem are:
- Streaks of soot around the service door of a gas appliance.
- Rust spots on flue pipes, boilers, furnaces or water heaters.
- A lazy, yellow flame with an oily smell in a natural gas furnace indicates inefficient fuel burning, and consequently high levels of carbon monoxide.
- Excessive moisture on basement windows and stale air both can indicate poor ventilation.
Steps to take to protect one’s family and home
There are some easy steps to take to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Purchase a carbon monoxide detector.
- Check to see that it carries the UL (Underwriters laboratories) label.
- Purchase a detector with an alarm to alert you quickly and wake you up during the night.
- Have furnace or boiler regularly inspected.
- A licensed heating professional should check all connections to flue piping and vents for cracks, gaps, rust, corrosion or debris.
- Debris should be cleared off the burner and safety switches tested.
- Inspection should cover combustion chamber and heat exchanger for cracks, holes, metal fatigue or corrosion.
- Have regular inspections of chimneys and vents.
- A qualified technician should inspect them for blockages caused by debris, animal nests or cave-ins.
- Be sure all vents are properly installed.
- Don’t operate gasoline-powered engines in confined areas.
- Avoid running furnace and fireplaces simultaneously for long periods of time.
- Warm up cars only in an open garage.
- Never install boiler, furnace or water heater in an airtight enclosure.
- Replace batteries in all detectors and alarms.
- Often carbon monoxide units are ineffective due to dead batteries. Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric is combating this silent killer by installing units in customers’ homes and ensuring new batteries are installed in new and existing units with each customers visit – free of charge. That goes for smoke alarms as well. Applewood makes it their policy to provide a free battery check and replacement during each customer call.
Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric has served the Denver/Boulder Metro area for more than 37 years. The company has consistently been rated one of the nation’s top 10 service companies by their customers. They are honored to have achieved the Nexstar Network Select Service Designation, to have been named 2007 City of Golden Rotary Ethics in Business Award winner and also named a finalist in the 2008 Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Trust. For more information call 720-249-5145 or go to www.ApplewoodFixIt.com.