What are the signs of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it, but Carbon Monoxid, when improperly vented from your home, can ake you sick,  cause brain damage and even worse, death.  Carbon Monoxide, also referred to as CO, s colorless, odorless and tasteless but highly toxic .  It is found in the emissions produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, or gas appliances.  

Every time your heating system, hot water heater or gas dryer operate, Carbon Monoxide is being discharged through the appliance’s chimney vent.  If yo chimney is blocked, cracked or rusted through, or if it is not properly vented to the outside of your home, Carbon Monoxide is escaping into your home.  If your windows and doors are closed, and not enough fresh air is entering your home, Carbon Monoxide will build more rapidly and sicken the people and animals who breathe it.

Some of the common conditions which cause CO levels to rise quickly include; furnaces that are not properly vented or have a blockage in the chimney caused by debris, or a furnace with a cracked heat exchanger; a gas dryer vent that may have lint build up, a bird’s nest, or snow blocking the CO from being properly discharged from the dryer; a fireplace or stove that has a chimney blockage or is not properly vented; or a vehicle or small appliance, like a portable generator, left running in a closed garage space.

Be prepared; prevention is the only way to avoid Carbon Monoxide poisoning .  Fall is the best time to have all of your fuel-burning appliances checked and inspected for safety.  Enlist the services of a trained and reputable, HVAC or himney inspection company.  In addition to checking the appliances themselves, have all flues and chimneys inspected to be sure they are connected, in good condition, and are not blocked in any way.  

Don’t idle your car in a garage attached to your home or office.  Fumes build up very quickly and seep into other areas of the building.  Don’t ever use a gas oven to heat your home or sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.  Don’t start any gasoline-powered engines like mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators in enclosed spaces.  And lastly, don’t ever use a charcoal grill indoors.

There are very clear warning signs that your appliances may be emitting Carbon Monoxide, which include; a decrease in hot-water supply;  the pilot light of your furnace or other gas-fired equipment keeps going out; the pilot light and burner flames of your gas furnace or other gas-fired equipment are mostly yellow, rather than clear blue. (please note that some natural gas fireplaces are designed to have yellow flames); your furnace is unable to heat the house effectively or runs constantly; soot buildup around vents; black streaks on walls or around baseboard radiators; unfamiliar or burning odor; you notice a sharp, penetrating odor or the smell of natural gas when your furnace or other natural gas equipment turns on; rusting, water streaking or chalky white powder on chimney vents; an appliance that makes unusual sounds or emits an unusual smell; and lastly, an appliance that keeps shutting off.  Many appliances have safety devices installed that prevent dangerous operation of the unit.  An appliance which constantly shuts off may be an indication that the appliance is not safe.

The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning are determined by the levels of CO found within a space.  Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can cause symptoms easily confused with signs of flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses and can cause long term health risks.  Moderate levels of carbon monoxide exposure can cause death if symptoms persist for any length of time, and high levels of exposure can cause death within minutes.   

Low level carbon monoxide exposure can be identified by; shortness of breath, mild nausea, and headaches.   Moderate levels carbon monoxide exposure can be identified by; headaches, dizziness, nausea, irregular breathing, burning eyes and lightheadedness.   High levels of carbon monoxide exposure can be identified by: sleepiness, disorientation, loss of consciousness and can be fatal, causing death within minutes.

If you suspect that you, a family member or co-worker have been exposed to Carbon Monoxide poisoning, you should get the victim into fresh air immediately.  If the victim cannot be removed from the house or building, open all the windows and doors.  Turn off all fuel-burning appliances immediately.   Arrange for immediate transport to a hospital emergency room.   A simple blood test can determine whether exposure occurred and whether treatment is necessary.

Don’t let your carbon monoxide detector lull you into a false sense of security.  The detector should be used as a back-up, but NOT as a replacement for proper use, professional inspection and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances.  Be sure to properly maintain and replace all Carbon Monoxide detectors, when necessary, in accordance with manufacturer instructions.  Many have a life span of only five (5) years.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to be more susceptible to getting sick from CO.  Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

You can consult with a professional heating appliance company or National Grid to ensure your family is safe from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.  If you are interested in further protecting your family, pets, home or business, alarm companies like APB Security Systems provide central station monitoring of Carbon Monoxide detectors and provide installation services for your convenience.

Steve Coppola, President – APB Security Systems, Inc.

(718) 698-8244    www.apbsecurity.com