Everyone needs to know that Carbon Monoxide, also known as CO, is a deadly Gas. It is dangerous as it is both odorless and colorless. The problem lies in that at lower levels it can pose a health risk and at higher levels it can cause death. There are groups that may be more vulnerable to CO. Infants, children, senior citizens, fetuses, and of course those with a history of heart and/or lung problems.
When CO is breathed in by an individual, it accumulates in the blood and forms a toxic compounds known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the bloodstream to cells and tissues. Carbon monoxide attaches itself to hemoglobin and displaces the oxygen that the body organs need.
Carboxyhemoglobin can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability. Later stages of CO poisoning can cause vomiting, loss of consciousness and eventually brain damage or death.
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of
combustion of fossil fuels. Fumes from
automobiles contain high levels of CO.
Appliances such as furnaces, space heaters,
clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, water heaters,
charcoal grills, fireplaces and wood burning
stoves produce CO. Carbon monoxide
usually is vented to the outside if appliances
function correctly and the home is vented
properly. Problems occur when furnace heat
exchanger crack or vents and chimneys become
blocked. Insulation sometimes can trap CO in the
home. This can be a special problem during
the heating season in colder climates, as homes
are insulated to save heat.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends installing at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near the bedrooms. If a home has more than one story, a detector should be placed on each story. Be sure the detector has a testing laboratory label.
Here is where you can look for problem sources of CO in the home:
A forced air furnace is frequently the source of leaks and should be carefully inspected and here are areas you will want to have checked.
- Make sure all furnace connections to flue pipes and venting systems to the outside of the home and look for signs of corrosion, rust gaps, holes.
- Inspect and replace as needed all furnace filters and filtering systems for dirt and blockage.
- Make sure all forced air fans are properly installed and assure there is correct air flow of flue gases. It is important that toxic gas is blown out of the house.
- Measure the concentration of carbon monoxide in the flue gases.
- Inspection should include the combustion chamber and internal heat exchanger for cracks, holes, metal fatigue or corrosion. Make sure they are clean and free of debris.
When you check burners and ignition system, note the color of the flame. A flame that is mostly yellow in color in natural gas fired furnaces is often a sign that the fuel is not burning completely and higher levels of carbon monoxide are being released. Oil furnaces with similar problems can give off an oily odor. Remember you can't smell carbon monoxide.
- Inspect all venting systems to the outside including flues and chimneys for cracks, corrosion, holes, debris, blockages. Keep them free of blockages.
Inspect all other appliances in the home that use flammable fuels such as natural gas, oil, propane, wood or kerosene. Appliances that are included are gas operated.
Pilot lights can be a source of carbon monoxide because the by-products of combustion are released inside the home rather than vented outside.
Be sure all appliances are vented properly as they may release carbon monoxide into the home.
Keep the clothes dryer vent opening outside free of lint.
Ovens operated by gas should never be used to heat a residence.
Barbecue grills are unvented and should never be used indoors or close to a home.