There are reasons why carbon monoxide gas is often described as the silent killer. It has no taste, color nor smell. This dangerous gas is found in the fumes of fuels that contain carbon such as coal, gasoline, and wood. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening health complication that occurs when you inhale carbon monoxide.
Your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is especially high when the device that releases the gas is used in an enclosed space with very poor ventilation. And once inhaled, carbon monoxide passes through your lungs and into your bloodstream, where it binds to hemoglobin molecules that usually carry oxygen. Oxygen cannot travel on a hemoglobin molecule that is attached to carbon monoxide. With continued exposure to the gas, the victim’s blood will gradually lose its ability to transport enough oxygen to meet your body’s requirements. And without a sufficient amount of oxygen in your system, individual cells will die, especially those found in vital organs such as your hearts and brain. It is also imperative to note that this gas may also poison your body directly by interfering with the body’s internal chemical reactions.
What are the common sources of carbon monoxide within your home?
- Gas ranges
- Gas-powered space heaters
- Unvented fireplaces
- Furnace systems and chimneys with leaks
- Appliances fueled by gasoline
- Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves
Even though one can neither see, taste or smell carbon monoxide, there are some signs homeowners can look for to successfully detect the leakage or buildup of carbon monoxide gas inside your home. These include:
- Brownish-yellow or sooty stains around the leaking device
- Presence of fallen soot in fireplaces
- A pilot light that blows out regularly
- A lack of an upward draft in the chimney flue
- Solid fuel fires burning relatively slower than normal
The smell of unusual gasses in your home. Even though carbon monoxide doesn’t produce any odor, it can sometimes be accompanied by exhaust gases that you can smell.
- Smoke, fumes, soot, or back-draft in your house from a fireplace, chimney, or any other fuel-burning device.
- Heavy condensation on the walls or windows where the fuel-burning equipment is being used.
- Stale or smelly air such as the smell of something overheating or burning.
Exposure to extreme levels of carbon monoxide gas in a poorly ventilated house can make you develop some symptoms that include:
- Shortness of breath
- Vision issues
- Changes in mood
- Difficulty walking or clumsiness
- Impaired judgment as well as cognitive problems
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased breathing rates
It is imperative to note that the longer and more intense your exposure to carbon monoxide gas, the more severe your symptoms can get, potentially resulting in a fatality. Without immediate treatment, you can ultimately lose consciousness, experience seizure, enter into a coma, and potentially succumb. This is why you are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you are exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning. You'll also need to contact your local heater service professional to come and conduct carbon monoxide testing in your home. This will help you to identify all the potential sources of carbon monoxide leakage in your home.
Research tends to show that a malfunctioning heater is usually the prime source of carbon monoxide poisoning in residential homes. This is why you should always schedule regular heater maintenance services to ensure your heating unit remains in good condition at all times.
How can you mitigate carbon monoxide poisoning in your home?
There are a couple of things you can do to minimize your risk of exposure in your home including:
- Ensure you install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in all your bedrooms because they are the surest way to identify the presence of this dangerous gas in your home.
- Ensure that your fuel-powered space heater is properly maintained and vented accordingly. Heater Maintenance and repair should be scheduled at least twice a year.
- Items such as charcoal grills, stoves, fuel-burning lanterns as well as generators should never be used inside the house.
- Use your space heater in a highly ventilated room.