Monoxide in Home
Problem: Carbon monoxide
affects personal health.
Background: Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless,
and tasteless gas. Usually carbon dioxide (C0 is produced
during the combustion of carbon-containing, or organic,
material, such as natural gas, oil, and wood. But if
enough oxygen is not present, CO is formed instead of C02.
Any gas, oil, kerosene or wood-powered appliance, or
combustion product has the potential to produce carbon
monoxide. Examples include wood stoves, fireplaces, space
heaters, charcoal grills, furnaces, water heaters,
boilers, and gas cooking ranges. (If adequate combustion
air is provided, and the appliance is properly installed
and maintained, the small amounts of carbon monoxide
generated can be safely vented to the outside.) Other
sources include burning cigarettes; combustion appliances,
such as a hibachi, used indoors; a cooking stove, used to
heat a room; a blocked or leaky chimney; a cracked or
corroded heat exchanger; combustion air backdrafts that
spill back into the home instead of going out the chimney,
vent, or flue.
What to do: Each year as many as 10,000 United
States residents seek medical treatment for carbon
monoxide poisoning. Typical symptoms of exposure to low
levels of carbon monoxide include headaches, dizziness,
drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. (Long-term exposure to
low levels has also been known to cause chest pains.)
Exposure to high levels can result in unconsciousness and
death. Some people are more sensitive to carbon monoxide
than others. If your home has gas appliances, and you or
other family members are experiencing some of the above
symptoms, check your appliances and see your doctor to be
tested. If you believe your furnace or other heating
appliances are releasing car bon monoxide, consult a
heating or ventilation contractor or the company that
provides your heating fuel. A visual inspection may
identify the cause.
The first step in preventing problems is hiring a
qualified technician to install fuel-burning equipment or
to convert an appliance from using one type of fuel to
using another. Never burn charcoal inside the house in a
grill, hibachi, or fireplace. Don’t heat or warm a room
with a gas oven, and don’t use a stove or fire place that
is not properly vented. Don’t run a car engine, lawn
mower, or other combustion engine in a closed garage. Set
up a maintenance schedule with a qualified technician to
inspect your furnace or boiler. See
Appliance Venting Faulty and
Special advice: Acceptable levels of carbon
monoxide in the home is considered 9 parts per million
(ppm) or less. Monitoring and testing services are
available through private testing labs and safety supply
stores. Passive monitors, about $10, change color when
elevated C02 levels are detected. Electronic monitors,
similar to smoke detectors (about $70 to $150), sound an
Helpful hint: Canadian
studies show most carbon monoxide poisoning problems are
related to poor maintenance; damaged chimneys, vents, and
flues; and improper installation of equipment. One out of
four cases results from the backdraft of furnace and water
heater gasses. The backdraft may be due to excessive
exhaust, inadequate air supply, and extreme airtightness
of the home.
The Home Repair Guide
Power Supply Is Cut
Electrical power is cut off to home
because of storms, tornadoes, floods, or other mechanical
Fuel Supply Is Cut
Power outages, as well as fuel
outages, can immobilize the heating and cooking systems in
the home. If electricity is off...
Contact with Electricity
Electrical shock can paralyze chest
muscles, making it impossible to breathe. Call immediately
for medical help...
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thunderstorms, most often in spring and summer. They are
nature’s most violent and erratic storms...
Flood Threatens Home
Floodwater threatens the family, the
home and its contents, and the community...
Home Has Been Flooded
For what to do if a flood is
imminent. If your home has been flooded, and you have a
flood insurance policy, immediately call...
Major hurricane is heading toward
your location, bringing dangerous winds, floods, and storm
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cannot be made. In the United States, earthquakes occur
most often in the western states...