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Protecting You & Your Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

 Posted Tuesday, January 5, 2016.

For most of us, our home is where we feel most secure, and the most comfortable. But home, too, has its share of dangers to be wary of. One of them is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can build up indoors. A large enough concentration of CO can poison and eventually kill people and animals.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

Carbon monoxide is produced primarily by the exhaust of internal combustion engines. Anything that burns a petroleum product (such as gasoline or diesel) produces carbon monoxide in its exhaust. This means automobiles, gas- or diesel-powered generators, lawn mowers, power washers, and so on.

CO is also produced by burning wood, coal, charcoal, oil, paraffin, propane, natural gas, and garbage.

What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by relatively high concentrations of CO in the air. When inhaled, carbon monoxide interferes with our blood’s ability to deliver oxygen throughout our bodies. While there is some carbon monoxide in the air (especially in cities, where motor vehicle exhaust is common), it is usually diluted enough to not have any negative effects on people. However, indoors, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air can easily rise to dangerous levels if adequate ventilation is not available, and if the source is not stopped.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. A high enough concentration can cause you to pass out, and eventually kill you due to lack of oxygen.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide from becoming a threat in my home?

Since carbon monoxide is a byproduct of combustion, some simple common sense and a few proactive early warning measures can go a long way-- even potentially saving your life.

  • Never use an internal combustion engine in an enclosed space. Cars running in enclosed garages are one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning. This goes for generators, too! It may be more convenient to locate your backup generator in your garage. It’s also more deadly.
  • Never grill indoors. Charcoal grills and portable camping grills both produce carbon monoxide, and without the open space of the outdoors to take it away, you’ll be filling that room with CO before you notice.
  • Ensure your chimney is clear. Fireplaces are great. Warm, cozy, and a nice gathering place in your home. Whether wood or gas, the combustion that produces the comforting heat produces carbon monoxide as well. Make sure it’s safely headed out your chimney, and not into the room itself.
  • Don’t use your stove or oven for heat. They aren’t designed for that kind of open space heating anyway.

As for prevention, a couple of small steps can go a long way.

  • Install battery-powered carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Early detection can save lives. Just like smoke detectors, these alarms give off a loud, piercing noise in the presence of CO. We recommend battery-powered over plug-in types because they are still reliable in the case of a power outage. Just check the batteries every few months or so.
  • Have your furnace checked for leaks. Furnaces, whether natural gas or oil, create carbon monoxide when they burn fuel. Normally this is carried out by vents, but normal wear and tear can make these connections loose, letting CO into your garage or basement. We recommend having these inspections done annually by a certified professional to ensure safe use.

    A little common sense (reinforced by the directions and safety warnings on various gas-powered appliances), and some prevention can go a long way to protecting you and your family against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Nazzaro & Sons Plumbing & Heating Inc. can inspect your furnace to ensure proper exhaust ventilation. If you are in Chelmsford, Bedford, Billerica, Lowell, or any other nearby town, please give us a call at (978) 256-3586, or contact us online to schedule an appointment.


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