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Heating Sources Can Release Deadly Gas

By HHI Staff

The most serious combustion gas in houses is carbon monoxide (CO), a flammable, odorless, tasteless, colorless gas. It’s typically formed as the result of the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels. In homes, high levels of CO can be released from fireplaces (either using wood or natural gas for fuel), coal- or wood-burning stoves; or from kerosene, oil, propane and natural-gas space heaters, furnaces, hot water heaters or other combustion equipment. Whenever you burn something, various combustion by-products, such as smoke, carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor and CO, are released.

 

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What makes CO so dangerous is that, when it is breathed into the lungs, it immediately reacts with hemoglobin (red corpuscle proteins) in the blood. Once saturated with CO, the hemoglobin can no longer perform the essential function of transporting life-sustaining oxygen throughout the body.Once saturated with CO, the hemoglobin can no longer perform the essential function of transporting life-sustaining oxygen throughout the body.

Commonly, one of the first signs of CO poisoning is a headache. As more CO is inhaled, flu-like symptoms follow, such as muscle weakness, loss of coordination, confusion and unconsciousness. Death will occur if levels of CO in the blood become high enough. Eerily, light-skinned victims of severe CO poisoning take on a characteristic cherry-red coloring. Each year in this country, hundreds of people die from undetected, high carbon monoxide concentrations in their homes, and many more suffer symptoms that they attribute to the flu when, in fact, they are being poisoned by CO. The sad truth is that CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S., with 10,000 people experiencing some level of poisoning annually — whether they know it or not.

Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Not surprisingly then, some experts believe that ideal healthy houses shouldn’t have any forms of combustion taking place inside the living space. However, if your home does have some type of combustion device, it is absolutely essential that it be working efficiently. Fortunately, when a gas-burning appliance is properly adjusted, CO production is minimized.Fortunately, when a gas-burning appliance is properly adjusted, CO production is minimized. Therefore, make sure your combustion equipment (and chimney) has a professional checkup and necessary maintenance annually. If, for any reason, carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, get out of the house immediately. Then, don’t return until a professional has inspected and repaired any malfunctioning equipment.

It’s also a very good idea to install one or more carbon monoxide detectors. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recommended placing one near your home’s sleeping area, with extra alarms on every other level in your house. These devices will continually monitor CO levels in the indoor atmosphere. When a higher-than-normal CO concentration is detected, an alarm will sound. Like smoke detectors, some CO detectors are battery-operated, while others are designed to be wired into your home’s electrical system. A few newer models combine both smoke and CO detecting in a single unit. Some have other features such as a voice warning. If you’re interested in purchasing a CO detector, they’re usually handled by local hardware stores.

Test your detector weekly. You can do this by simply pressing the test/reset button with your finger, or with the end of a broom handle if you can’t reach it. Also, if it’s a battery-run model, replace the batteries twice a year. One final note: If you don’t own any combustion appliances but do burn many candles or oil lamps occasionally, installing a CO detector a still good idea. With the popular craze underway for burning a dozen or more candles at a time, CO can build up, even from such small combustion-gas-generating items.

 

 

 

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Heating Sources Can Release Deadly Gas:  Created on February 27th, 2007.  Last Modified on February 27th, 2011

 

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