Winter is fast approaching and that means cozying up next to the fire. That fire, however, may kill you if precautions are not taken to ensure the fireplace is working properly.
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer; colorless, odorless, and able to kill in a matter of minutes in high enough quantities. Every year, people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes, yet these deaths are avoidable.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency offers a PDF for information on preventing carbon monoxide poisoning for seniors and caregivers.
Carbon monoxide, better known for its molecular formula CO, is produced by the burning of any combustible fuel such as wood, gas, oil, or kerosene. This makes furnaces, fireplaces, and stoves the main culprits that must be checked for proper function. If these appliances are not properly maintained or checked yearly, they can produce hazardous and deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include severe headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, and even faintness. In low doses, carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic flu or food poisoning symptoms. The Mayo Clinic offers more in-depth information regarding symptoms.
Installing carbon monoxide detectors in the kitchen, near the fireplace, and even in the bedroom can help reduce the risk of death. The use of these detectors and performing yearly inspections can save lives from this silent killer.
DO have a professional inspect your gas appliances yearly including chimneys, flues, and furnaces
DO know the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and leave the area and go outside for fresh air
DO NOT use lanterns, charcoal grills, or gasoline-powered appliances in enclosed areas
For more information on indoor air quality, check out the Environmental Protection Agency's carbon monoxide website .