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An Explanation of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas capable of causing serious illness or death. Since 1999, there have been over 700 deaths caused by this deadly gas. This should be a concern for homeowners with fireplaces, as a lack of maintenance has been sited as a potential cause.

Carbon Monoxide, or CO, is produced by things such as automobiles, gasoline generators, stoves, gas heating systems, charcoal, and wood burning fireplaces. If there is no direct ventilation or the ventilation is blocked, the gas cannot go up the vent pipe. However, it must go somewhere so it takes the path of least resistance and that can be your home. If this happens and the home is occupied by a pet or person, they are subject to falling victim to CO poisoning.

Common symptoms of this condition are abnormal weakness, nausea, chest pain, headaches, and vomiting. When an individual has prolonged exposure to CO, they can fall unconscious and parish. In many cases, people believe they are coming down with another type of  illness like the flue due to common symptoms.

In order for a body to function properly, it must have oxygen. When CO is present in abundance, it prevents our red blood cells from being able to process oxygen into the body. This damages tissues and results in the symptoms mentioned above and can eventually lead to death. While an alert person may recognize the symptoms mentioned in time, someone who is inebriated or sleeping will not.

In order to prevent this from happening in your home, it is recommended that a professional inspect and clean your fireplace before use every season. Even if it was a mild winter the previous year, there can still be blockages and buildup inside the chimney that will prevent the gas from properly venting. CO detectors are also recommended as an early alert to CO poisoning.