According to the USFA (United States Fire Administration), around 400 Americans die of carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and an additional 22,000 are treated in emergency rooms. Most fatalities are associated with central heating systems, fireplaces and portable heaters.
Carbon monoxide is a potentially lethal, odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. Sources of it include the incomplete burning of fuels (kerosene, wood, charcoal, coal, etc.) and equipment or vehicles that use combustion engines such as lawn mowers, portable generators and cars. Prevention is of paramount importance to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. It can kill you before you even know it’s in your home.
You rely on heating sources to keep you warm in winter, but remember they are also possible sources of carbon monoxide, so please observe the following precautions this winter:
- Ensure that chimneys and vents are free of debris or blockage. Schedule an appointment at least once a year for a professional inspection of any fuel-burning appliances in your home, including your chimney, venting and heating systems.
- Do not use flameless, portable, chemical heaters inside your home. While they don’t produce flames, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says they burn gas and can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide inside homes.
- Never use your oven or a gas range burner to warm up your home. They are not designed for home heating purposes.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm or detector and ensure that it has fresh batteries and is working properly. These devices are designed to measure carbon monoxide levels. The USFA recommends using a detector that has passed the UL2034 safety standard. Also make sure to check the expiration date on your carbon monoxide detector; most are only effective for 5-7 years.