Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Whether you heat your home with oil, natural gas, propane, coal or wood, your heating system can produce carbon monoxide (CO) if it is not working properly or inadequately vented.
Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless but very toxic. Signs indicating the presence of carbon monoxide in the home include stuffy, stale or smelly air, very high humidity or soot coming from a fireplace or heating system.
Carbon monoxide is also produced from internal combustion devices such as cars and small gasoline engines.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often confused with those of influenza, and the highest incidence of poisoning occurs during the flu season.
Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, vision problems, and loss of muscle control. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage or death.
However, victims may experience only one or a few of these symptoms - if any. You should suspect the presence of carbon monoxide if symptoms tend to disappear when you leave the building.
What should you do if you suspect the presence of carbon monoxide?
Alert your family, employees or workers and exit the area immediately. Open the windows and doors on your way out, if you are able to do so.
If carbon monoxide is detected by your alarm, exit the area immediately, and call 911 to notify your local fire department.
Have your heating equipment inspected by your fuel supplier or a licensed heating contractor to ensure that it is in good working order.
How can you reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home?
“Tune up” your heating system annually by using a licensed heating contractor, or a fuel supplier preferably before the heating season begins to ensure it is in good working order.
Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home, and make sure they are working properly.
Annually check your chimney or vent pipes for blockage. If a blockage exists, contact a professional chimney sweep immediately.
Similarly, make sure your home is adequately ventilated, especially if you have recently insulated or renovated your home, or enclosed your heating system.
In the winter, clear any snow or ice that accumulates around vents, gas meters, regulator vents and any other outdoor piping.