Friday, January 25, 2008

Carbon Monoxide - Avoid and Prevent!


While inspecting a Wyoming County home recently, I encountered another carbon monoxide concern. This is a good time of year to consider the potential hazards associated with Carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced by the combustion of fuels such as natural gas, oil, wood, and propane in devices such as furnaces, water heaters, and stoves. Harmful interior levels of CO can result from incomplete combustion of fuel, improper installation, or blockages, leaks or cracks in the venting systems.

The most recent issue that I found during a home inspection was a blocked hot water tank vent. Issues such as back drafting, disconnected or blocked vents (along with several other sources) can cause elevated CO levels and the results range from flu-like symptoms to death. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, carbon monoxide poisoning claims approximately 480 lives and sends another 15,200 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

Sometimes I am surprised that people are living in a home with significant CO concerns. I wonder how many people suffer form CO poisoning and don't know what's causing it. Someone in a "tight" house might have symptoms with only minimal amounts of CO, while someone in a house with more air leakage might get away with no symptoms. There are many sources and factors related to CO poisoning- so get informed about your particular appliances and have them serviced regularly.

Also, remember that CO detectors usually only last for 5-10 years before replacement is recommended. Different types along with location of the devises need to be considered as well. If you have a CO detector that signals concern, open windows and ventilate your home with fresh air and contact a qualified professional to investigate. If your alarm sounds and you are drowsy or light-headed, leave the house and call 911 from your cell phone or neighbors home and consider a medical checkup for CO poisoning.

If you are suffering from chronic flu-like symptoms, see your doctor and ask him if it could be low-level CO poisoning. We should all be more conscientious of this leading cause of accidental poisoning.

Adam Backus- Pillar To Post
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