Know the Facts!
FACT: Carbon monoxide (CO) is the number one cause of poisoning death in America, killing approximately 1800 people a year.
FACT: On average, 10,000 people are treated annually for CO poisoning.
What is carbon
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless gas. It is a common by-product of incomplete combustion, produced when fossil fuels (like oil, gas or coal) burn. Because you can't see, taste or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's there. Exposure to lower levels over time can make you sick.
Where does carbon
monoxide come from?
CO can be produced by the combustion that occurs from fossil fuel burning appliances like a furnace, clothes dryer, range, oven, water heater, or space heater. When appliances and vents work properly, and there is enough fresh air in your home to allow complete combustion, the trace amounts of CO produced are typically not dangerous. And normally, CO is safely vented outside your home.
Problems may arise when something goes wrong. An appliance can malfunction, a furnace heat exchanger can crack, vents can clog, or debris may block a chimney or flue. Fireplaces, wood burning stoves, gas heaters, charcoal grills, or gas logs can produce unsafe levels of CO if they are unvented or not properly vented. Exhaust can seep into the home from vehicles left running in an attached garage. All these things can cause a CO problem in the home.
Why is carbon
monoxide so dangerous?
Carbon Monoxide robs you of what you need most: oxygen, which is carried to your cells and tissue by the hemoglobin in your blood. If you inhale CO, it quickly bonds with hemoglobin and displaces oxygen. This produces a toxic compound in your blood called carboxyhemoglobin (COHb).
Carboxyhemoglobin produces flu-like symptoms, for example: headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and irritability. Since symptoms are similar to the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning can be misdiagnosed. As levels of COHb rise, victims suffer vomiting, loss of consciousness, and eventually brain damage or death.
Who is at risk from
carbon monoxide poisoning?
Everyone is at risk because everyone needs oxygen to survive. Medical experts believe some people maybe more vulnerable to CO poisoning: unborn babies, infants, children, seniors, and people with heart and lung problems due to higher metabolic rates.
How can I help
protect my loved ones against carbon monoxide poisoning?
Early warning is important. Install one or more alarms. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every home have at least one carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal installed near the sleeping area. Choose a CO alarm that is tested and listed by a Nationally Accredited Lab such as ETL or UL.
Have your appliances checked regularly. Have a qualified appliance technician check all fossil fuel burning appliances, venting and chimney systems at least once a year, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
Where should I look
for potential sources of carbon monoxide in the home?
A forced air furnace is frequently the source of leaks and should be carefully inspected by a professional.
Have a professional do the following:
- Measure the concentration of carbon monoxide in the flue gases
- Check furnace connections to the flue pipes and venting systems.
- Check furnace filters and filtering systems.
- Check forced air fans for proper installation and to assure correct air flow of flue gases.
- Check the combustion chamber and internal heat exchanger for cracks, holes, corrosion or dirt/debris.
- Check burners and ignition systems and pilot lights.
- Check fireplaces for closed, blocked or bent flues, soot and debris.
- Check all venting systems to the outside of your home. This includes checking flues and chimneys for cracks, corrosion, holes, debris or blockage. Animals and birds can build nests in chimneys, preventing gases from escaping. Vibrations can shake vent pipes loose from gas dryers or water heaters, preventing CO from being vented properly outside.
- Check all other appliances in the home that use fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil, propane, wood or kerosene.
- Appliances include water heaters, clothes dryers, kitchen ranges, gas heaters, ovens or cook- tops, wood-burning stoves, gas refrigerators or alternative power sources such as generators.
- Be sure space heaters are vented properly. Unvented space heaters that use a fossil fuel such as kerosene or propane can release carbon monoxide into the home.
- Barbecue grills should never be operated indoors under any circumstances.
- Stove tops or ovens that operate on fossil fuels should never be used to heat a residence.
- Check the clothes dryer vent opening. Lint may block proper venting outside the house.
What do I do if my
carbon monoxide alarm goes off?
Never ignore an alarm! It is very possible that you won't be experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning when the alarm sounds. That doesn't mean there is no carbon monoxide present. The alarm is designed to go off before you feel sick, so you have time to react and take action.
In some cases, problems can occur even if all appliances are working properly:
- If appliances, flues and chimneys are confirmed to be in good working order, the source of carbon monoxide may be from back drafting. This condition exists primarily in newer, more energy efficient, "airtight" homes. Flue gases normally vent to the outside through flues and chimneys. As temperatures drop at night, air pressure inside an airtight home may become lower than outside, causing flue gases that normally exit the house to turn around and flow back down the pipes.
- Inadequate air supply in a room where two or more combustion-driven appliances share the same air source, such as a water heater and furnace in a utility closet, can create a more complicated form of back drafting called reverse stacking. This occurs when one appliance turns on, such as the furnace, and is unable to get adequate fresh air. When the furnace operates, it draws contaminated air from the water heater exhaust, and spreads polluted air throughout the house.
- A broken thermostat can keep the furnace running continuously, depleting the oxygen supply inside the house. This may lead to back drafting.
- In multiple family dwellings like apartments or townhouses, where living spaces share walls and pipes, carbon monoxide from one unit may go into a neighboring space through floorboards, cracks, or underneath doors.
How does a carbon
monoxide alarm work?
It's not a smoke alarm. CO alarms are not a substitute for a smoke alarm. A CO alarm does not sense smoke or fire. While a smoke alarm triggers an alarm when it detects particles of smoke, a carbon monoxide alarm triggers an alarm based on exposure to CO over time. It is designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult may experience symptoms.
Call 1-631-SECURITY to help protect your employees by installing a carbon monoxide alarm today!