Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States today.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen within a matter of minutes and is responsible for more deaths than any other single poison. This odorless, colorless poison can hurt you slowly in low levels, cause permanent neurological dysfunctions in moderate levels, and take lives in higher levels.
Oil, propane, and natural gas fired heating systems, gas appliances and fireplaces all release carbon monoxide as they burn and can be health and fire hazards.
Review the following list of symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:
Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage, and even death.
If you suspect that you have been exposed to this gas, you should get fresh air immediately and call your primary care or covering physician. Because the early warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning closely resemble those of food poisoning, it is important to be aware of the threat of CO poisoning.
If you have an oil, propane, or natural gas fired heating system, gas appliance or fireplace in your home, then you should have them inspected annually by a reputable expert. This inspection should ensure proper combustion and ventilation and check your chimney flue for any obstructions, cracks, and ill-fitting seams. When checking for proper combustion, your expert should ensure that there is an adequate supply of air for combustion. All gas flames generated by kitchen ranges or heating systems should be blue in color. A yellowish flame that is noisy and excessively high may be caused by improper combustion, and may result in unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.
Many hardware stores now carry carbon monoxide detectors that operate much the same way that smoke detectors do. They are affordable and well worth the money, especially if you use portable fuel-burning heaters.
Proper ventilation and testing of equipment are two of the best ways to protect yourself and your family against carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure you are careful and smart when keeping warm this winter.