Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

Your home should be a place where you can feel safe and comfortable. Here, you can relax from work, stay warm in the winter, and enjoy the company of your loved ones. Thus, you probably don't think of your home as potentially dangerous. Yet old heating systems and leaks put you at risk in your own home for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a serious health risk. Between 2000 and 2007, some 414 Canadians died from CO poisoning. In addition, hundreds more were hospitalized every year due to CO. The odourless and invisible nature of the gas makes detection difficult and exposure more likely.

However, you don't need to live in fear of CO. You can keep your home safe and limit carbon monoxide when you take time to understand the problem and prevent it. We will present the facts and strategies you need to keep your family free from the risks of CO.

What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide denies your body the oxygen it needs. As you inhale CO, it will slowly displace the oxygen in your blood. Your blood cells will absorb CO instead of oxygen, saturating your blood with CO before you can process the air you need.

As CO poisoning progresses, your organs will lose more and more oxygen until they begin to shut down. Unfortunately, if you have carbon monoxide poisoning, you will feel the symptoms before you recognize the problem. As a result, people often fail to react quickly enough to stop the poisoning, which leads to severe sickness and even death.

What Causes Carbon Monoxide Exposure?

Carbon monoxide comes from a variety of sources, though mainly from fuel burning appliances and machines. The most prominent sources include:

  • Idle car engines
  • Wood-burning stoves
  • Fuel-burning space heaters
  • Furnace leaks
  • Charcoal grills
  • Water heaters
  • Portable generators
  • Fireplaces
  • Cooking ranges

What Are the Symptoms?

Carbon monoxide doesn't take long to take effect. Other than a CO detector, symptoms provide the only way to notice CO poisoning. If you or someone else experiences these symptoms, you must leave the area immediately and seek medical attention. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Problems with hearing or sight

While these symptoms are common for carbon monoxide victims, they are also common for other conditions. Pay attention to your surroundings and try to identify risk factors that might cause these symptoms. If you move outdoors and feel better, it's very likely the symptoms are due to carbon monoxide.

Remember to seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. The longer CO stays in your blood, the more damage it can cause.

How Can You Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

While treatment can reduce the damage done by carbon monoxide poisoning, prevention ensures your home remains free of carbon monoxide. You can prevent CO poisoning in three separate ways: detecting the toxin, reducing CO risk, and improving air and ventilation systems.

Detect Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide detectors alert you about CO before you experience serious symptoms. Different detectors employ different methods, but all give you the warning you need to respond promptly. Detectors include:

  • Biomimetic sensors: sound the alarm when carbon monoxide interacts with a special gel.
  • Electrochemical sensors: use chemicals that react with CO and alert you when the concentration becomes harmful.
  • Metal oxide semiconductors: have a microchip that interacts with CO and notifies you immediately if it encounters the gas.

It is important to ensure you have at least one of these detectors on all floors of your home. We would recommend placing them close to bedroom areas and fuel burning appliances to ensure the highest level of safety for you and your family.

Reduce Risk

If you remove the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning, you will greatly reduce your risk of exposure. Careful monitoring and storage of your fuel burning appliances is the best way to reduce your risk. Here are a few tips to best protect your home from CO:

  • Always use generators and grills outside and in ventilated areas.
  • Don't use a gas kitchen oven for purposes besides cooking.
  • Ensure space heaters stay in ventilated parts of your home.
  • Use proper fuel for space heaters.
  • Regularly inspect wood-burning stoves to prevent leaks; clean chimneys and ensure the stove complies with regulations.
  • Allow wood-burning stoves to completely vent before closing them.

Improve Your Ventilation System

When you have a modern and well-functioning air and heating system, you add an entire extra layer of protection to your home. Proper air systems eliminate sources of CO and, if CO enters your home another way, prevent it from accumulating enough for a lethal dosage. Help create a better heating and ventilation system through the following methods:

  • Regular maintenance and cleaning clears out debris and prevents CO leaks from your heating system. This also ensures air moves freely through your house, reducing the likelihood of CO poisoning.
  • Repairs fix breakdowns that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, patching leaks in your ventilation can close openings for CO to enter your home.
  • Replacement of older furnaces with new and cleaner furnaces eliminates a major carbon monoxide risk. Plus, new furnaces run more efficiently and need fewer repairs.

Carbon monoxide doesn't need to threaten the safety of your home when you work to prevent it. When you understand the risks, you can take steps to detect CO and eliminate its sources. Proper knowledge, reliable appliances, and efficient detection equipment all improve your chances of never experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning. Use this blog, or contact East Side Ventilation to find ways you can increase your home's safety today.