Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of accidental poisoning death in America, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Each year, 1,500 people die due to accidental carbon monoxide exposure and an additional 10,000 seek medical attention.
Carbon monoxide is a flammable, colorless, tasteless, and toxic gas produced during incomplete combustion of fuel like natural gas, oil, coal, wood, and kerosene. Because it's odorless and invisible, victims don't know they're in danger.
Early signs of CO poisoning include fatigue, sickness, and vomiting. These symptoms can become more sever and include dizziness, mental confusion, severe headaches, nausea, and fainting on mild exertion. A person with high levels of carbon monoxide may become unconscious and die.
How does carbon monoxide enter the home?
Carbon monoxide can escape from any fuel-burning appliance, furnace, water heater, fireplace, wood stove, or space heater.
What can you do to help prevent carbon monoxide from becoming a problem in your home?
- Have a licensed inspector check your heating system at least once a year for leaks in vents, pipes, flues, and chimneys and to make sure the system is operating correctly.
- Leave your fireplace damper open until you're sure the fire is out.
- Have your chimney cleaned annually by a professional.