How To Stay Safe And Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is responsible for poisoning more than 10,000 people every year across the USA, over 400 of whom die. With furnaces running longer to keep your home warm this winter, we want to help protect natural gas consumers in the Atlanta Gas & Light service area. Read on to find out how your family can avoid this danger!
What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
“It’s often called the silent killer because it is odorless, it is colorless, it’s tasteless, and you do not know it’s present unless 1) an alarm goes off or 2) you’re starting to develop symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning”
This is how Savannah Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Bandy described carbon monoxide poisoning after a mother and her daughters were rushed to hospital. But what is CO, and why is it so dangerous?
Firstly, it’s worth clarifying that this is not the gas we use to heat our homes. Natural gas safety is important, but that’s the fuel we use in our furnaces – carbon monoxide is a byproduct created when our furnaces burn natural gas without enough air. It poisons us by preventing our blood cells from distributing oxygen through our body. Rather than carbon dioxide, which gives up oxygen easily, carbon monoxide holds onto it, eventually causing us to suffocate.
How Can I Detect Carbon Monoxide?
As mentioned, CO is odorless and colorless. Unlike natural gas, which has mercaptan added to provide a warning scent, CO cannot be identified without the use of a detector. Every home that burns fuel of any sort should have a CO detector. These can cost as little as $20, and it’s a good idea to fit them in the sleeping areas of your home.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Leaks
The best thing you can do to avoid the potentially fatal effects of CO is to understand where the risks lie. Any appliance that burns fuel will produce carbon monoxide – furnaces, stoves, fires, and generators are just a few of the most common examples.
Normally, furnace exhaust gas exits your home through the chimney or vent pipe safely without leaking CO into your home. However, a common cause of CO leaks comes from cracks in the heat exchanger. This can allow exhaust gases to escape into the living area of your home, leading to potential CO poisoning. New efficient natural gas appliances are less likely to suffer from this than old ones, which will start to wear out over the years.
Your best defense against this is scheduling regular furnace maintenance appointments. A professional will know what to look for and warn you if your furnace could leak CO.
What Can I Do Today?
Keep this “silent killer” at bay with a few simple steps! Here’s what you need to do to protect yourself and your family:
- Invest in several carbon monoxide detectors – install them in your sleeping areas.
- Ensure your furnace has unobstructed supply of fresh air. It will produce CO when it doesn’t have access to enough air.
- Schedule yearly furnace checkups. Get one immediately if it’s been more than one year.
This is especially important advice during the colder months. We’re still seeing high consumption of cheap natural gas in Georgia, which means more potential danger from carbon monoxide. Take care and stay safe – a little effort now could pay off big in the long run.