According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 400 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S. Another 20,000 need emergency medical treatment due to being exposed to dangerous levels of CO.
As Autumn approaches and temperatures begin to fall, people start to spend more time indoors. As indoor heating systems are turned on to maintain comfortable temperatures, CO related incidents increase.
Even if your heating system is relatively new, it can still be a contributing factor to poor indoor air quality, including increased levels of carbon monoxide.
The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas. Even though it is undetectable to the human senses, it is still toxic and dangerous. Exposure to high levels of this invisible gas for even a short time leads to carbon monoxide poisoning. However, long-term exposure to low levels is just as dangerous.
When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it bonds with the red blood cells in your body. This makes it difficult for your circulatory system to transport oxygen to vital organs like your heart, lungs, and brain.
CO is incredibly dangerous because you aren’t even aware that you are breathing it in. The first symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is a feeling of nausea. This can quickly lead to tiredness, loss of consciousness, and even death.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include:
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
Sleeping or intoxicated people are more likely to experience permanent damage due to CO exposure. Before the problem is detected, they could suffer from irreversible brain damage or even death.
The Production of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a natural byproduct of fire. Anywhere there is a flame, carbon monoxide is present. All gas appliances, including gas-run furnaces, give off at least small amounts of CO. HVAC units that are not properly installed and maintained often cause unsafe levels of CO in your indoor air.
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
There are steps you can take to ensure you and your family remain safe from CO poisoning. Follow these important tips to protect the inhabitants of your home.
Replace old or faulty HVAC units with new, safer models.
An older unit may not be functioning properly which could increase the risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Invest in central HVAC unit that will provide safe, clean, and efficient heat for your home.
Keep vents clean and sealed.
Harmful fumes, including carbon monoxide, are vented out of your home through flues. When dirt and debris obstruct venting systems, those harmful fumes could back up into your home. Therefore, it is important to make sure your vents are tightly sealed and clear of any obstructions.
Use appliances as directed.
Be sure to follow all manufacturer’s instructions when operating appliances. This includes refraining from using your stove or oven as a means to heat indoor spaces. Never use charcoal or gas grills indoors and keep running generators outside.
Install CO detectors in your home.
Because it is impossible to detect carbon monoxide with your senses, it is important to have another means of detection to warn you and your family when CO levels in your home rise. Install CO detectors on every level of your home. Be sure to replace batteries annually.
Call a professional for regular maintenance.
Central air conditioners and furnaces require regular maintenance to ensure good indoor air quality. This includes regular filter changes and annual upkeep tasks. To ensure your system is functioning safely and properly call your local HVAC technician and schedule a routine maintenance visit.
With education and preventive measures, your family won’t become another statistic. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious matter. Make sure you are doing everything possible to keep you and your family safe from this toxic gas.