Carbon Monoxide—The Invisible Killer

Each year over 400 people die from accidental, non-fire-related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and thousands of people become ill from it. In fact, in 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to over 80,000 CO incidents in which CO was present in the building.

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion. While most people think you can only get CO poisoning from faulty gas appliances, that’s not true. CO is produced any time a fossil fuel, like oil, gasoline, natural gas, coal, propane and other materials, is burned. Typically, CO is vented out of your home when you use fuel-burning appliances like a furnace, stove, water heater or fireplace. However, if your fuel-burning appliance is broken or incorrectly-vented, or you’re using it improperly, such as using a generator inside a home, CO can escape and back up in your home. CO can also build up when you have chimneys or flues that are wrongly fitted, cracked, blocked from animal nests and another debris, badly swept or not swept in a long time.

Carbon monoxide is an “invisible killer,” because it’s colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating. So people don’t realize the toxic gas is in their home until it’s sometimes too late.

Therefore, it’s important to know the common symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • Headache
  • Fatique
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

More severe symptoms from high levels of CO include:

  • Weakness or loss of muscular coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Mental confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

While CO poisoning can mimic the flu and other illnesses, if you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

To prevent CO poisoning from occurring in the first place:

  • Install a CO detector in your home and inspect it regularly to make sure it’s functioning properly.
  • Have all of your appliances checked yearly by a professional to confirm that they’re operating correctly.
  • Contact the CSIA-certified professionals at T.J.’s Chimney Service to ensure your appliance flues and chimney are in good working order by scheduling an annual chimney inspection and cleaning. We’ll make sure your flues and chimney are functioning properly and safely for your family’s peace of mind.