Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas–and it’s a killer. In fact, in some countries carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common type of poisoning overall.
Symptoms of mild carbon monoxide poisoning include: headaches, flu-like symptoms, confusion and lightheadedness and may easily be misdiagnosed, leading to more severe poisoning because of further exposure. Higher levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can affect the central nervous system and heart and even cause death.
Why would you be exposed to carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide comes from incomplete burning of organic matter because of insufficient oxygen. This is one of the reasons running your car in a closed garage is so dangerous. The carbon monoxide comes from the car not having sufficient oxygen to properly burn the gasoline, and then the closed space makes it build up.
However, your fireplace or your gas stove could have the same issues, or even your furnace. Here are some tips for staying safe from carbon monoxide:
1. Examine the color of the flame from your gas stove. Blue is good, orange is bad. If you see an orange flame, move on to tip #2.
2. Have your gas appliances checked every year to make sure that they are working correctly.
3. In the fall, check your fireplace flue for anything birds might have left behind or plants making an incursion into the chimney. Anything that blocks oxygen flow could cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home.
4. Clean kitchen ducts and vents regularly. Your stove can be a huge cause of indoor air pollution and carbon monoxide is only one of the dangerous substances your stove can put into your environment.
5. Make sure the fan above your stove is working properly. Most kitchen fans do not do a very good job.
6. Use the back burners. They are closer to the vent and the fan and any pollution from the stove is more likely to go straight outdoors.
7. Install a carbon monoxide detector with a low level indicator. This should help keep you safe as well as put your mind at ease.
Because carbon monoxide can literally kill before you know it, prevention is the best way to deal with it. A little maintenance and thought can go a long way to prevent this common type of poisoning.
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