How it kills… Carbon monoxide (CO) is toxic to humans because it is attracted to hemoglobin, the main component of red blood cells. Normally, hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout our bodies, releasing it to tissues as needed. When CO gas is present, it replaces the oxygen, and in heavy concentrations, can kill in minutes. In lower concentrations the symptoms mimic the flu or other viruses which are common in cold weather months.
The Warning Signs
In Your Home Due to its nature, carbon monoxide cannot be detected by the human senses. But sometimes the gas will leave clues to its presence. These are things to look for which might indicate that (but not always) you have excessive concentrations of CO:
- Stale, stuffy air that never seems to clear.
- Excessive humidity that condensates on windows.
- A hot draft venting from the chimney into the home, or no draft at all in the chimney.
- Soot which accumulates around the outside of a fireplace, chimney, or furnace.
- A smell of exhaust fumes in the air.
Use a Carbon Monoxide Detector. It’s an economical and accurate way to warn you if dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are accumulating in your home or RV.
- Check all your duct work which is vented to the outside (chimneys, water heaters, etc) on an annual basis for any signs of blockage (bird nests, large twigs, etc.)
- If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, have the chimney cleaned annually.
- Have your heating system inspected annually, (before the cold weather sets in) to check for proper and safe operation of all parts.
- If your home is extremely airtight, you may want to contact your local utility company for information regarding adequate ventilation, back drafting concerns, or to measure the carbon monoxide level in your home.
- Don’t forget your water heater. Make sure that is properly vented and the ductwork does not leak any exhaust gases into the room.
Inspect your vehicle’s exhaust system for leaks. Most muffler shops will do this for free.
This year, many people will needlessly die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
These common sense, often quoted rules could save your life.
NEVER sit in a parked car with the engine running and the windows closed.
NEVER let your car idle in a closed garage.
NEVER heat a room or your home with a kitchen stove or oven.
NEVER use an un-vented gas heater indoors.
NEVER use charcoal indoors.
NEVER enclose furnaces and/or water heaters without proper ventilation.
NEVER use LP appliances or gasoline lanterns indoors or in a camper/RV unless they’re vented outdoors.