Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning kills about 500 people a year, and results in approximately 20,000 trips to the emergency room.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is produced from the incomplete burning of fuels that contain carbon, such as wood, charcoal, gas, coal, natural gas and kerosene. Carbon monoxide poisoning is especially prevalent in the winter months because of the use of space heaters that are improperly installed or not functioning properly. Improperly vented fireplaces can also produce potentially deadly amounts of carbon monoxide. Other sources of carbon monoxide include:

Furnace systems and chimneys with leaks
Wood-burning stoves
Gas ranges and other appliances fueled by gas such as gas water heaters and driers
Generators
Cigarette and pipe smoke
Exhaust from cars, lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of hearing, blurry vision, seizures, loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. In other words, some of the milder symptoms are consistent with symptoms of the flu or common cold, and you may not be concerned until more serious symptoms result. So the best way to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning is to take simple steps to prevent it.

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning include:

Having your furnace and fireplace cleaned every year
Opening the flue when you use a fireplace
Using gas space heaters only in well-vented areas
Keeping windows open a tiny bit in areas you are using gas appliances
Checking for pilot lights that go out or gas burners that take on odd colors
Keeping the garage open when you warm up your car
Never running your lawn mower, snow blower, portable generator, etc. in your garage
Of course, the most sensible way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the home is to install carbon monoxide detectors. Illinois law requires that a carbon monoxide detector be installed within 15 feet of every gas burning appliance and within 15 feet of every sleeping area. Additionally, you should install a detector on every level, even if there is not a gas burning appliance or sleeping area in that space.

If you are plugging the detector into an outlet, make sure there is a battery in case of a power failure. And test the batteries per the manufacturer’s instructions (many carbon monoxide detectors will beep if the batteries are dead).

Detectors should last four to seven years, depending on the model. Check the manual that came with your detector to determine its life. Then write the expiration date onto the detector with a sharpie so you know when it needs to be replaced.

Ravinia Plumbing & Heating checks for carbon monoxide while performing HVAC tune-ups. Call us at 847.579.5565 to schedule an appointment.

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*Based on research conducted January - August 2016