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Carbon Monoxide Safety, Poisoning, and Detection: Know the Facts

How to protect your family and your home

carbon monoxide poisoning south shoreWinter is the peak season when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning, because people are using their home’s heating system, space heaters, and burning fires in their fireplaces.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 20,000 people go to the emergency room, 4,000 people are hospitalized, and 400 people die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning not related to fires.

Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide (CO) are often created by equipment or appliances which are defective, incorrectly installed or maintained, or improperly used. CO buildup can also happen when vents become blocked by obstructions such as ice, snow or bird nests, or people warm up their cars inside the garage.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is especially dangerous because carbon monoxide has no color and no odor.

That’s why we’re sharing important information so you can know how to prevent, and respond to, carbon monoxide buildup in your South Shore home.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

While everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, infants, the elderly, people with anemia, chronic heart disease or respiratory conditions are especially vulnerable.

CO poisoning happens when carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in your red blood cells. That deprives vital organs like your heart, brain and lungs from the oxygen they need to function. If enough CO builds up in your bloodstream, it can cause permanent injury or death.

The CDC says CO poisoning symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

Pets are also vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning. If your pet is suddenly weak or lethargic, especially if they’ve been in an enclosed space, that may be a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. Other potential signs are sudden vomiting (especially followed by weakness or listlessness), difficulty breathing, seizures or loss of consciousness. If your pet shows these signs, get it (and everyone else) out of the house right away and take your pet directly to an emergency veterinarian.

How do I detect carbon monoxide in my home?

Detecting the presence of carbon monoxide is essential to keeping you and your family safe.

Battery-operated or battery back-up carbon monoxide detectors should be on every level of your home and outside all bedrooms. Install and maintain your CO detectors according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Replace the battery in every detector each spring and fall when you change your clocks and replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. CO detectors need to be replaced every five years.

If you use propane in your home, we recommend that you install a propane leak detector as well.

How do I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

Prevention is the best defense against carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are some tips to prevent CO from building up in your home.

  • NEVER use a portable generator or outdoor grill inside your home or in the garage, even if all the doors and windows are open
  • Keep portable generators outdoors and at least 20 feet from your home
  • Don’t warm up your car in the garage, even if the garage door is open
  • Have your home heating system and space heaters inspected and serviced every year
  • NEVER use your gas oven or cooktop for space heating
  • Check your exhaust vents frequently for blockages, especially after a storm or heavy snowfall
  • If you’re seeing soot on your appliances or vents or increased moisture inside of your windows, or smell an unfamiliar or burning odor, it may be a sign that one of your appliances is generating high levels of carbon monoxide. Contact Frank Lamparelli right away and we’ll check it out.

Want more information about carbon monoxide? Go to our propane safety page.

Frank Lamparelli is dedicated to making sure our customers and neighbors here on the South Shore are safe. Contact us to learn more about carbon monoxide safety, or have us inspect you home heating equipment, today.