The Deadly Gas: Carbon Monoxide

Understanding the dangers associated with carbon monoxide poisoning is important for everyone; prevention is the key to avoiding this tragic but preventable fate. Nearly one thousand people die accidentally from non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning each year. A large percentage of the accidental deaths are directly linked to fuel-burning appliances that are faulty, improperly used, or incorrectly vented. The CSIA- and NFI-certified chimney sweeps are here to help you provide everyone in your household with the protection they deserve from these dangers.

Make sure your house is safe and free from potential leaks of Carbon Monoxide.
Make sure your house is safe and free from potential leaks of Carbon Monoxide.

The Silent Killer

You cannot see, taste, or smell carbon monoxide, hence the reason it has earned a rather fitting moniker: the silent killer. At high enough levels, carbon monoxide can kill a person in minutes. It is created anytime a fuel is burned. When fuel-burning appliances are maintained and used properly, the amount of carbon monoxide produced doesn’t typically reach hazardous levels; however, if these same appliances aren’t properly maintained or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can be produced. As a precautionary measure, having your heating equipment cleaned and inspected by a professional annually is an absolute must.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Learning the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and the steps you can take to minimize your risk of exposure are an integral part to keeping you and your loved ones safe. At moderate levels of carbon monoxide exposure, you and your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy or disoriented, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. It’s even possible to die if these levels persist for an extended period of time. Low levels of carbon monoxide can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea and headaches, and may have longer-term effects on overall health.

Because many of these symptoms are similar to those of more common ailments like the flu and food poisoning, many people don’t even think of carbon monoxide poisoning as a possibility. This is the first mistake. If these symptoms only appear when you’re in the house and then get better when you leave home, carbon monoxide poisoning could very likely be the reason. Getting fresh air as soon as any of these symptoms surface is key.

Carbon Monoxide Detection Saves Lives

Another key precautionary measure is installing at least one carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, especially near sleeping quarters. If you install a battery-powered unit, plan to check the batteries regularly to ensure your home is still being monitored. Upgrading each of these units every 5-7 years is also strongly recommended, as it will help to ensure that you have the most up-to-date technology monitoring the air quality conditions within your home. You can never be too careful when it comes to life-or-death issues.

As a quick refresher, make sure to have your fuel-burning appliances inspected and cleaned by a certified professional prior to the beginning of every heating season. Ensure that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good working condition, and unobstructed. If you or anyone in your home notices symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside to get fresh air immediately and seek medical attention thereafter. Lastly, install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Remember, carbon monoxide cannot be seen, tasted, or smelled; the only defense against this silent killer is forethought, knowledge, and prevention. It’s never too late to make the right decision!

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