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Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

As the weather grows cold, more and more people turn to fireplaces, stoves, and other heating appliances to keep themselves, their families, and their homes warm. What many fail to realize is that these same appliances may create a health and safety risk if they are not properly maintained. One major concern, especially during the heavy use months of winter, is carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide poisoning kills as many as 400 people each year in the United States. Homeowners should be aware of what causes it, the symptoms of poisoning, and the simple steps they can take to prevent it.

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What is carbon monoxide gas?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and extremely toxic gas that is produced by burning fuels. Carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer” because due to its properties, it is impossible to detect without specific equipment.

Its many sources include burning coal, wood, charcoal, oil, natural gas, kerosene, and propane. This means that most fireplaces, stoves, grills, space heaters, water heaters, furnaces, and even vehicles produce carbon monoxide gas. However, these appliances are normally either properly vented or located outdoors so they pose little to no risk to homeowners and their families.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

When exposed to small quantities of the gas, people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning will begin to develop flu-like symptoms. This will include a feeling of sleepiness accompanied by headache and nausea. In medium concentrations or with prolonged exposure, these symptoms will continue to worsen in addition to impaired coordination and vision, shortness of breath, and dizziness. In extremely high concentrations, carbon monoxide poisoning can even lead to coma or death.

If you believe that you are experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately move to a fresh air location. Ideally this is outside, but can also be next to an open door or window. Call Poison Control and local emergency services before reentering the building.

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable by taking a number of common sense steps to avoid exposure. The primary – and easiest – way homeowners can protect themselves and their families against carbon monoxide poisoning is to install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of the house and in areas near fuel burning appliances such as fireplaces, stoves, or furnaces.

Next, homeowners should have all heating or fuel burning appliances in the home annually maintained. This ensures that anything that could cause carbon monoxide poisoning is still in good working condition and has not been damaged in any way. Doing this also ensures that all venting and ductwork is clean and free from blockages, allowing carbon monoxide to safely exit the home.

Generators and grills should never be used indoors or in enclosed spaces such as garages or sheds. Likewise, they should be kept away from open windows as this may allow the carbon monoxide they produce to enter a home. In addition, stoves and ovens should never be used for heat. Finally, vehicles should never be left running to “warm up” in garages, even if the door is open. The large amounts of carbon monoxide exhaust that is produced can quickly fill the small space.

With regular maintenance of heating appliances and a few preventative measures, homeowners can easily protect their families against carbon monoxide. For questions about carbon monoxide and your fireplace or stove, contact Lords Chimney today!

All About Carbon Monoxide

A deadly toxic gas that can enter your home if you have venting problems with your chimney or other heating unit, carbon monoxide is responsible for killing over 400 Americans by unintentional poisoning annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), carbon monoxide poisoning also sends over 20,000 people to the emergency room, and more than 4,000 people end up having to be hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Known as the “silent killer” (you cannot see or smell it), carbon monoxide makes it very important to have your chimney inspected annually to ensure your chimney system is venting properly.

If you live in the greater Houston area and are looking for a pleasant service experience and the knowledge that your job was done correctly, give Lords Chimney a call at 281-497-4000.

If you live in the greater Houston area and are looking for a pleasant service experience and the knowledge that your job was done correctly, give Lords Chimney a call at 281-497-4000.

Our Chimney Safety Institute of America-certified technicians, who are experienced with solving carbon monoxide issues, would like to tell you more about this toxic gas that can silently enter your home and cause serious health damage:

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pain, and confusion are all symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning. Since these symptoms are so similar to the flu or the common cold, carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to diagnose. If you persist in having these symptoms, ask your doctor for a carbon monoxide level blood test. High-level symptoms include organ damage, loss of consciousness and death.

How does carbon monoxide poisoning work?

For some reason, your red blood cells would rather pick up carbon monoxide than oxygen. If there is a lot of carbon monoxide in the air, your body may replace all of the oxygen in your blood with carbon monoxide, blocking oxygen from entering your body, causing tissue damage and resulting, possibly, in death. Tissues can also be destroyed by carbon monoxide teaming up with the proteins in tissues.

How do I prevent carbon monoxide leaks from my chimney?

Have your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected by a reputable chimney company like Lords Chimney every year. If you are purchasing a gas fireplace, be sure it carries the seal of a national testing group, such as the CSA Group. If your heat ever goes out, never use a portable flameless chemical heater indoors. Although they do not have a flame, they do burn gas and can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside your house. Most importantly, install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home, and check and/or replace the batteries when you reset your clocks in the spring and fall.

How do I vent my gas appliances properly?

Firstly, never burn anything in a fireplace that is not vented. Secondly, never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or anything else, which could cause carbon monoxide to build up more quickly. Thirdly, your indoor vent pipes should go up slightly as they go towards the outside. This helps prevent toxic gases from leaking if the joints or pipes are not fitted properly.

If you have any more questions about carbon monoxide, contact us today. Our experienced staff can answer whatever else you need to know about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.