No single substance causes more accidental home poisonings than carbon monoxide (CO). While you cannot see, smell or taste it, only one part of CO per 100,000 parts of air can cause headaches, dizzy spells fatigue and nausea. Higher concentrations can cause death in as little as a half-hour. Unborn children, infants, the elderly and those with respiratory ailments are especially vulnerable.
Carbon monoxide is the product of incomplete fuel combustion including oil, natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, propane, butane, wood and coal. The gas is emitted by inefficient or faulty furnaces, space and water heaters, dryers, ranges, fireplaces and wood stoves. Today’s airtight homes add to the danger by trapping the carbon monoxide gas and allowing lethal levels to build up.
The best defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is a UL-listed carbon monoxide detector located in at least two places in your home. Place one detector near your sleeping quarters and another one near your gas or oil furnace. Carbon monoxide detectors look and sound like smoke detectors. Some other precautions you should take to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Having your furnace serviced annually.
- Opening a window when using a wood-burning fireplace and having your chimney cleaned each season.
- Never running gasoline motors or using a barbecue grill inside your home.
- Having fuel-burning appliances installed by a professional.
If you suspect carbon monoxide gas in your home, have all family members, and pets, leave immediately. Call a heating contractor or a local utility to inspect your furnace and gas appliances from a neighbors house. If you use oil or propane, call your fuel supplier or heating contractor. Make sure your home has been well ventilated before re-entering.
Information provided by the Pennsylvania Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.