Protecting your home from carbon monoxide

Realize the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Have frequent headaches, nausea, dizziness or flu-like symptoms without fever? These symptoms might be a sign of chronic carbon monoxide poisoning, which can result from ongoing unsafe levels of carbon monoxide in your home or environment.

Additionally, acute carbon monoxide poisoning produces symptoms that appear quickly and can overtake people before they have a chance to respond. Each year, more than 200 people die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the majority of these deaths are preventable.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that results when fossil fuels such as wood, kerosene, gasoline, charcoal, natural gas, propane and oil don't combust completely. It can result from numerous flame-fueled places in your home, including your range or oven, clothes dryer, furnace, fireplace, gas grill, space heater, water heater or car.

Babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with respiratory and circulatory ailments and some other diseases are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide and can experience poisoning symptoms earlier than other adults. What's more, those who work in occupations where they are in frequent, heavy traffic or spend a great deal of time in car garages can have elevated carbon monoxide levels in their blood.

How Do I Protect My Home from Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is present in low levels in the air. In order to keep it from reaching dangerous levels, follow these precautions:
  1. Vent. Make sure your gas-fueled appliances are properly vented. Contact these service pros for expert assistance.
  2. Service. Have your heating and air conditioning units serviced regularly by qualified technicians.
  3. Inspect and clean. Get your fireplace inspected and cleaned every couple years, or yearly if you build frequent fires. Make sure your fireplace is free of leaves, debris and animal nests. These service pros can help you out.
  4. Keep it outside. Never use a gas grill, burn charcoal, or use portable fuel-burning camping equipment in an enclosed environment such as on a porch, in a garage or inside your home.
  5. Don't idle. Don't leave your car running in the garage, even if the garage door is open.
  6. Beat the heat. Never use your clothes dryer or oven for heating your home.
  7. Observe. If a blue pilot light or flame is normal and what you are observing is yellow instead, contact your natural gas company.
  8. Air it out. Open windows daily and air out your home.
  9. Set the alarm. Install a carbon monoxide alarm, one on each level of your home, especially by sleeping areas. Do not cover it with draperies or furniture. If the alarm sounds, push the reset button, call your natural gas company or 911 and move to fresh air (either outside or by an open window).
  10. Use your nose. Contact your natural gas company if you smell rotten eggs. Gas companies add a chemical to natural gas so that it has a sulfur-like odor that you will immediately recognize and that probably indicates a gas leak.
If you suspect you or someone in your home is experiencing an acute case of carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 immediately. If you think you might suffer from chronic carbon monoxide poisoning, see your doctor for a blood test and take steps to eliminate sources of carbon monoxide in your home. If you do not have a regular doctor already, consider these medical professionals.

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