Every year, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning kills an average of 430 Americans and sends 20,000 more to an emergency room or hospital. Colorless, odorless, and tasteless, carbon monoxide (CO) is produced by common sources such as gas-fired furnaces and appliances, exhaust from automobiles and other internal-combustion devices, and even wood-burning fireplaces. Slightly heavier than air, carbon monoxide easily accumulates inside enclosed structures. Early symptoms of CO poisoning may resemble common illnesses such as the flu or simple fatigue. However, the difference between the amount of CO exposure that triggers mild symptoms and the amount that causes death is very small.
Here are some measures to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:
- Install carbon monoxide detectors. If you don’t already have them, install one on each level of the home and one outside every sleeping area. If you have a basement, a detector should be installed there too. Replace the batteries in the detector twice a year. CO detectors have a finite life-span and should be replaced every five to seven years.
- Schedule an annual furnace check-up. This procedure by a qualified HVAC service technician will include checking furnace combustion and sampling exhaust gases to verify that excess carbon monoxide is not being produced. The furnace vent will also be inspected to ensure that combustion gases are properly exhausted into outside air.
- Have other gas-fired appliances such as the stove and water heater checked out by a plumber or other qualified professional for safe operation and proper venting.
- Make sure fireplace components, such as the damper and flue, are in safe condition to exhaust smoke and gases.
- If the house includes an attached garage, never run any internal-combustion engine — including an automobile, generator, or even a lawn mower — inside the garage with the door closed.
- If your CO detector sounds or you suspect that carbon monoxide may be present, get everyone out of the house immediately and stay out. Call the fire department, paramedics, or other first responders on a cellphone outdoors.
Ask Detmer and Sons for more important information to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.