The Dangers of Carbon MonoxideCarbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous and life-threatening gas that can build up in your home due to fuel-burning devices (furnaces, space heaters, boilers, water heaters, fireplaces, generators, etc.) that are not properly vented, operated, or maintained. Unfortunately, CO has no odor, color or taste, which means you, cannot detect it with your senses.
CO exposure causes an estimated 500 deaths yearly in the United States. On average, 8,000-15,000 people are examined or treated in hospitals each year due to non-fire related exposure to carbon monoxide. If you breathe in CO over long periods of time, it can cause an increased risk of heart disease or brain damage. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a mild headache, dizziness, tiredness and nausea. CO is called the “silent killer” because we tend to ignore early signs, a person may lose consciousness and unable to escape to safety.
Here’s some good news; simple measures can be taken to ensure your family will be happy and healthy in your home. You should have your fuel-burning appliances checked and maintained by a qualified heating contractor every year to look for possible problems. Check for the following signs indicating a CO problem:
- Streaks of soot around fuel-burning appliances;
- Absence of an upward draft in your chimney;
- Excess moisture found on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces;
- Excessive rusting on flue pipes, other pipe connections, or appliance jacks;
- Orange or yellow flames (should be blue) in your combustion appliances;
- Small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney vent, or flue pipe; and
- Rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from the outside.