Be careful warming your home this winter, as blocked fireplaces and faulty fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stove ranges, water heaters and room heaters can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
“The big thing about carbon monoxide is you can’t see, taste or smell it,” said Bill Wells, Roswell Fire Department fire marshal. “It’s a silent killer.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 Americans die and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning annually.
The most common symptoms of poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. High levels can cause loss of consciousness and death.
The biggest problem the department sees involving carbon monoxide, or CO, comes from older furnaces that have not been cleaned or checked for cracks recently, he said.
Clogs in the system’s filter can inhibit clean burning, causing CO, and cracks can lead to gas leakage. Wells recommends getting furnaces inspected regularly and having the filters changed as needed.
Wells also warns not to try heating a home using stove burners and to make sure stove gaskets are working correctly. He also suggests cleaning a chimney flue before using a fireplace.
If someone experiences the symptoms of CO poisoning or suspects they may have a buildup of CO in their home, Wells suggests they get out of the house immediately and contact the fire department.
“What we don’t want to do is walk into a house where everyone’s unconscious,” he said. “Then it becomes a critical situation.”
CO detectors are available at hardware stores and in the hardware departments of discount stores, he said. The fire department also has meters to gauge CO levels and can check homes at no charge.
The fire department can be reached at 624-6800.