Carbon monoxide (CO), is a clear, odorless gas that is poisonous to humans and animals. It can be produced by furnaces, fireplaces, flues, oil heaters, and even air conditioners. It also occurs naturally. Faulty home appliances like furnaces and air-conditioners can slowly fill your home with CO if not properly vented.
CO leaks are responsible for an estimated 500 deaths a year and more than 15,000 trips to the emergency room in the United States. However, as CO poisoning often goes unreported, the number of instances is probably much higher than we realize.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:
- Irregular breathing and heartbeat
If you suspect that someone in your home or office is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Get all people and pets out of the building immediately
- Call 9-1-1
- Report the suspected exposure to the fire department
You can avoid the risk of CO poisoning with diligence and prevention. Ensure that your furnace is inspected and maintained annually by a licensed and trained contractor, and have any problems repaired immediately. Be aware that ovens, space heaters, and gas-powered machines (your car, outdoor power equipment, etc.) can cause CO to build up. Make sure there is proper ventilation any time you are using a gas-powered appliance.