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Carbon Monoxide
Wood Burning Fireplace

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless,
colorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen in the blood to the
rest of the body. It is produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels.

What Are The Major Sources Of CO?

Carbon monoxide is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon-containing
fuels including gasoline, coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas, propane, methane, and
fuel oil. It can be emitted by combustion sources such as unvented kerosene and gas
space heaters, furnaces, wood stoves, gas stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, automobile
exhaust from attached garages, and tobacco smoke. Problems can arise as a result of
improper installation, maintenance, or inadequate ventilation.

What Are The Health Effects?

Carbon monoxide interferes with the distribution of oxygen in the blood to the rest of the body. Depending on the amount inhaled, this gas can impede coordination, worsen cardiovascular conditions, and produce fatigue, headache, weakness, confusion, disorientation, nausea, and dizziness. Very high levels can cause death.

The symptoms are sometimes confused with the flu or food poisoning. Fetuses, infants, elderly, and people with heart and respiratory illnesses are particularly at high risk for the adverse health effects of carbon monoxide.

Every year, almost 500 people die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 15,000 end up in hospital emergency rooms.

What Can Be Done To Prevent CO Poisoning?

  • Ensure that appliances are properly adjusted and working to manufacturers' instructions and local building codes.

  • Obtain annual inspections of fuel-burning household heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves and space or portable heaters), and have them cleaned by a qualified technician before cold weather sets in.

  • All chimneys and chimney connectors should be evaluated by a qualified technician to verify proper installation, and check for cracks, blockages, or leaks. Make needed repairs before using the equipment.

  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use for adequate ventilation.

  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.

  • Do not use ovens and gas ranges to heat your home.

  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.

  • Do not burn charcoal inside a home, garage, cabin, recreational vehicle, or camper.

  • Make sure stoves and heaters are vented to the outside and that exhaust systems do not leak.

  • Do not use unvented gas or kerosene space heaters in enclosed spaces. Always open a window slightly when in use.

  • Never leave a car, lawn mower, generator, or other fueled engine or motor running in a shed or garage, or in any enclosed space even if the doors are open. CO from a running vehicle or generator inside an attached garage can get inside the house, even with the garage door open. Normal circulation does not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent dangerous accumulations inside. If you need to warm up a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it.

  • Make sure your furnace has adequate intake and outside air.

  • When camping, remember to use battery-powered heaters and flashlights in tents, trailers, and motor homes. Using fossil fuels inside these structures is extremely dangerous.

  • Boat operators should be aware that CO is emitted from any boat's exhaust. When your boat is moored or anchored alongside others be aware of the effect your exhaust may have on those vessels and vice versa. The trim of the boat, as well as side curtains, can contribute to increased concentrations of CO by altering the air flow. Fuel burning appliances located in accommodation spaces need to be properly ventilated and maintained.

Please examine the chart to spot potential problems in your home

Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What If I Have Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Don't ignore symptoms, especially if more than one person is feeling them. If you think you are suffering from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, you should:

  • Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows. Turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.

  • Go to an emergency room. Be sure to tell the physician that you suspect CO poisoning.

  • Be prepared to answer the following questions: Is anyone else in your household complaining of similar symptoms? Did everyone's symptoms appear about the same time? Are you using any fuel-burning appliances in the home? Has anyone inspected your appliances lately? Are you certain they are working properly?

What About Carbon Monoxide Detectors?

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors can be used as a backup BUT NOT as a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. CO detector technology is still being developed and the detectors are not generally considered to be as reliable as the smoke detectors found in homes today. You should not choose a CO detector solely on the basis of cost; do some research on the different features available.

Carbon monoxide detectors should meet Underwriters Laboratories Inc. standards, have a long-term warranty, and be easily self-tested and reset to ensure proper functioning. CO detectors should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes, or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound. These devices detect CO before it reaches a dangerous level.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions for placement and mounting height. Test CO alarms at least one a month; replace them according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Buying A CO Detector Carbon Monoxide Detector

There are three types of CO detectors. Each works in a different way.

  • Oxide semiconductor - this is the most common type. It usually runs on electricity. It contains a
    chemical that reacts with CO, setting off the alarm when levels are too high.

  • Biomimetic - this type of detector mimics the response of the human body to CO. It contains gel-coated
    discs that darken when it detects CO. When this happens, the alarm goes off. This type is usually battery-operated and lasts about six years.

  • Electrochemical - although this is the least common type of detector, it is also the most accurate. It
    is not as popular as the other types because it is expensive, battery-operated and has a short sensor life.

If Your CO Detector Goes Off, You Should

  • Make sure it is the CO detector and not the smoke alarm.

  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.

  • Check to see if any member of your household is experiencing symptoms.

  • If they are, get them out of the house immediately and seek medical attention.

  • If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate the home with fresh air and turn off all potential sources of CO.

  • Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly.

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