Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Whether you heat your home with natural gas, oil, propane, coal or wood, your heating system can produce carbon monoxide (CO) if it is not working properly or inadequately vented.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless but very toxic. Signs indicating the presence of carbon monoxide in the home include stuffy, stale or smelly air, very high humidity or soot coming from a fireplace or heating system.
Carbon monoxide is also produced from internal combustion devices such as cars and small gasoline engines.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often confused with those of the flu and the highest incidence of poisoning occurs during the heating and flu seasons.
Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, vision problems, and loss of muscle control.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage or death.
However, victims may experience only one or a few - if any - of these symptoms. You should suspect the presence of carbon monoxide if symptoms tend to disappear when you leave the building.
If You Suspect Carbon Monoxide
Alert your family, employees or workers and exit the area immediately. Open the windows and doors on your way out, if you are able to do so.
If carbon monoxide is detected by your alarm, exit the area immediately, and call 911 to notify your local fire department.
Have your heating equipment inspected by your fuel supplier or a licensed heating contractor to ensure that it is in good working order.
Reduce The Risk Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
You should “tune up” your heating system each year by using a licensed heating contractor, or a fuel supplier - preferably before the heating season begins - to ensure it is in good working order.
Carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed on every floor of your home and always working properly.
Your chimney or vent pipes should also be checked each year for blockages. A professional chimney sweep should be contacted immediately if you find any problems.
Similarly, make sure your home is adequately ventilated, especially if you have recently insulated or renovated your home, or enclosed your heating system.
In the winter, make sure to clear any snow or ice that accumulates around vents, gas meters, regulator vents and any other outdoor piping.