Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that can be deadly at high concentrations. However, low concentrations that are not necessarily deadly can cause serious health problems. These problems are often misdiagnosed resulting in improper treatment and unnecessary drug prescriptions.
Significantly increased risk is upon us during the heating season so now is the time to be informed and take all the necessary precautions. Following is an overview of our technical article found at www.inspectionlibrary.com/Carbon_Monoxide.htm. Other helpful information can be found at www.carbonmonoxide-poisoning.com and www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm.
CO replaces the oxygen in your blood depriving your body of oxygen. Enough CO in your blood causes one to suffocate. Symptoms of high concentrations are: Confusion, Severe headaches, Cardiac problems, Breathing difficulties, Brain damage, Dizziness, and even Death. Long term low concentration symptoms can cause: Slight headaches, Fatigue, Shortness of breath, Nausea, Dizziness and Confusion. General symptoms are similar to the flu.
Anything that burns fuel or generates combustion gas can produce carbon monoxide: heating devices, fireplaces, gas stoves, automobiles, etc. CO risks from automobiles has become quite serious given the popularity of remote start, particularly in cold weather so the car will be warm when you get in. Data indicates that starting your car in an attached garage, even with the garage door open, will cause dangerous levels of CO in the house within 5 minutes. It’s easy to envision starting the car in the garage while getting ready for work, then beginning to feel sick, deciding to stay home, going back to bed, and ……… Scary, deadly. DON’T LET YOUR CAR WARM UP IN THE GARAGE.
Other significant concerns are present around your home as well. One of the more common issues we see is a condition where the furnace and/or water heater do not have an adequate supply of combustion air. Another is ‘orphaned’ water heaters, common when an older standard efficiency furnace has been replaced with a newer high efficiency type without resizing the water heater exhaust flu to properly draft the combustion gas out of the house. We also often find corroded or rusted metal flue pipes leaking combustion gas into the house. Other conditions we find are blocked flues or chimneys, aged and defective brick masonry chimneys, return air intakes near furnace or water heaters, non-vented gas heaters, and non-vented gas fireplaces.
Carbon monoxide monitors are very important and should be checked regularly and replaced periodically in accord with manufacturer standards. Buy good quality units, install on every level of the home, and within 15 feet of every sleeping area. This article is not intended to analyze or advise regarding the adequacy of CO monitors. Readers are advised to research the various devices and determine which device best suits their needs. The publications referenced at the first part of this article will provide you with more information in this regard.
Have a specialist check all fuel burning appliances, become educated regarding CO symptoms and potential sources of CO and how to monitor and manage them. Check flues and chimneys, clean and repair as needed. Stay away from or as a minimum be very cautious with non-venting gas logs, heaters, and similar devices. Be sure you have adequate CO monitoring devices and if you purchase a low-level monitor be certain to be fully informed regarding monitoring low levels and how to properly interpret the results.
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